Chef Michael Diaz De Leon
Born in El Paso, Texas and raised in Denver, Michael Diaz de Leon’s world revolved around great, home-cooked Mexican food. After receiving an associate’s degree in culinary arts from El Paso Community College, Diaz de Leon operated his own food truck, Comfort Co. Tasty Eats, specializing in classic southern staples like pulled pork and fried chicken. Craving more stability, Diaz de Leon became executive sous chef of the El Paso Country Club in 2017 and, one year later, was hired as chef de cuisine of Taft Diaz. While the high-end Mexican restaurant was under construction, Chef-Owner Oscar Herrera sent Diaz de Leon to Mexico City for a two-month stage at Pujol, where he was finally able to study the history of his family’s cuisine.
After two years leading the kitchen at Taft Diaz, he moved to Denver in search of a new challenge. He scored the role of sous chef at meat-centric Old Major, but in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the restaurant to shutter. Diaz de Leon kept on working—he made sandwiches at his local grocery store and partnered with Rising Stars alum Kelly Whitaker to spearhead an advocacy kitchen ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Under the name Pinchi Umami, Diaz de Leon hosted weekly taco omakase pop-ups at Whitaker’s intimate, open-fire-driven concept, BRUTØ. He was tapped as the concept’s chef de cuisine later that year, with full reign of the 16-seat chef’s counter. Diaz de Leon’s tasting menu highlights the terroir of hyper-regional corn varietals and the various microclimates found within Mexico, Central America, and Colorado.
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