Colombian Restauranteur Juan Manuel Barrientos Awarded Cross of Boyacá, Colombia’s Highest Civilian Honor
Last Monday, Colombian chef, hotelier, and restauranteur Juan Manuel Barrientos, best known for his Michelin-starred El Cielo restaurant, was in Bogotá to receive “la Cruz de Boyacá en el Grado de Gran Caballero” (The Cross of Boyacá in the grade of grand knight) from Colombia’s President, Ivan Duque (above, right).
The award was presented to Barrientos, known colloquially as “Juanma” for his success in molecular gastronomy, as an entrepreneur, and for the work of his social foundation, “Fundación El Cielo.” Earlier in 2021, the newest of his four El Cielo restaurants, in Washington DC, became the first Colombian-owned restaurant to receive a Michelin star.
The four El Cielo restaurant locations are in Bogotá, Medellín, Miami & Washington DC.
The Bogotá El Cielo location has been included in the “50 Best Restaurants, Latin America” list for the years 2021, 2015, 2014, and 2013. The Medellín location of El Cielo recently relocated to Barrientos’ new El Cielo Hotel.
As important as his culinary achievements, for the past 13 years Barrientos has operated a foundation that seeks to promote peace through gastronomy by teaching culinary and restaurant operations skills to ex-combatant victims of Colombia’s insurgency, including former soldiers injured by land mines, left-wing guerillas, and right-wing paramilitaries. Beyond job training, the foundation provides for counseling and reconciliation; and beyond the actual combatants and victims, it includes spouses, indigenous and rural victims of forced displacement.
In the past 13 years, the El Cielo Foundation has provided support to over 1,000 individuals. The foundation is supported by 30% of El Cielo’s annual profits, said the company in a statement. In 2018 the foundation collaborated with the United Nations to reintegrate ex-guerilla combatants.
Barrientos released a book in 2019 titled “The Recipe for Success” (in Spanish). The Audible Audiobook version, narrated by Barrientos, was released last Monday, simultaneous with his award reception.