Chef Manny Barella
Hispanic Top Chef Judge 2021 and 2022 President Hispanic Chefs Association 5280 Editors Choice Top of the Town Chef 2022
Although Manuel Barella Lopez didn’t cook much growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, he always loved to eat. He studied at the Instituto Culinario, then landed a job at the Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica, Mississippi, working in catering services. Two years later, he moved to Atlanta for a role as chef de partie at the St. Regis Hotel and found a mentor in Chef Jonathan Jerusalmy. Barella Lopez followed Jerusalmy to Southeast Georgia and was introduced to the world of fine dining at the Georgian Room. Following a couple of months home in Mexico, Barella Lopez traveled to Napa Valley to cook at the Calistoga Ranch before becoming sous chef of Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, followed by a role at the Michelinstarred Auberge du Soleil.
Eager to return to fine dining, Barella Lopez moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he was hired as a pasta cook at Frasca Food and Wine. After working his way through every station at Frasca, he was offered the sous chef position at Uchi Denver. Although he loved learning about Japanese cooking, he couldn’t help but dream about the food most personal to him—Mexican cuisine. So when Bill Espericueta and Rising Stars alum Bryan Dayton asked him to help them rebrand the New American restaurant, Acorn, into a more casual Mexican concept, Barella Lopez already had a full menu planned. In addition to being the executive chef of Bellota (now with a second, Boulder location), Barella Lopez also serves as the head of the Hispanic Chef Association of Colorado, working to elevate and educate Hispanic chefs in Colorado.
The chef’s fare is already attracting national attention—Barella was nominated for a 2022 James Beard Award in the Emerging Chef category—even though he is keeping his sights set on local domination.
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