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Guillermo Pernot, a bald man with glasses, wearing a white shirt. He is facing the viewer.
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James Beard award winner Guillermo Pernot retires and leaves Philadelphia

Following a critically acclaimed career as a chef, Nuevo Latino founder Guillermo Pernot will be moving to Mexico to retire.

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Guillermo Pernot, James Beard Award winner and founder of Nuevo Latino cooking style, has announced that he and his wife will retire, moving out of the city and to Mexico to live a new life, at the age of 67.

In 1975, Pernot attended Columbia University following his departure from Argentina, where he was born, moving to Philadelphia three years later.

Within the city, he worked at different restaurants at the front of the house. While working the dinner shift at a Four Seasons restaurant in 1988 — where he would meet his future wife — he decided to find a way to cook instead of bussing tables.

In 1991, he heard of an opportunity at Sweetwater Farm in Glen Mills for Pernot to work as an innkeeper, cooking breakfast for guests. 

Accepting the position, Pernot was given the responsibility of cooking a New Year’s Eve dinner for a family that had booked the inn, a task which he completed handily.

Pernot would work at different restaurants, from a kitchen job at a friend’s pizzeria to chef de cuisine at the restaurant Treetops in Acme, PA.

In 1996, Pernot introduced Nuevo Latino — a reinvention and celebration of traditional and modern Latin American cooking — at Manayunk’s Vega Grill, to commercial success.

He would open many restaurants, including ¡Pasión! in Center City in 1998, Cuba Libre’s first and second location in 2001 and 2004, respectively, working as corporate chef of the second location since 2006.

He oversaw its expansion into Orlando, Florida and Washington, D.C. and frequently traveled to Cuba to further his understanding of the cuisine.

For his work as a chef, Pernot would win the James Beard award for Best Chef in 2002, and then won it again the same year for Best Single-Subject Cookbook with Ceviche! Seafood, Salads, and Cocktails With a Latino Twist.

Over the course of his career, Pernot witnessed the ups and downs of the culinary world. 

Like many, the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on Pernot. As a chef, Pernot spent much time revising menus for takeout despite cooking food not meant to be delivered long distances.

Earlier this year, he stepped back from cooking to take a less hands-on role, leading to the realization that retirement was a possibility, then to become a reality.

”He’s a great culinary leader and leaves behind great people and a great culture,” said Barry Gutin, co-owner of Cuba Libre alongside Larry Cohen, to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Continuing Pernot’s work will be Kevin Couch and Angel Roque, two longtime Cuba Libre chefs.

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