Chef Juan Manuel Barrientos, has become the first Colombian to win a Michelin star for his newest Colombian themed ElCielo restaurant, located in Washington D.C. ElCielo, a concept based on neuroscience applied to local products and ancestral roots is also the first Colombian restaurant to appear on the prestigious list.
“My team and I am very humbled and honored to become the first Colombian restaurant to appear on the Michelin guide,” said Barrientos. “This is a huge accomplishment for Colombian cuisine. I am proud to have Colombia represented and recognized as world class gastronomy and I hope this is only the beginning to show how our Colombian and Latin American heritage transcended borders.”
Barrientos was born in Medellín on June 16, 1983, making him also one of the youngest chefs to bestow this accolade. His passion and skill set for cooking was built in some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the globe including working with Chef Juan Mari Arzak in Spain and with Chef Iwao Komiyama in Argentina. A peace advocate, Barrientos launched the ElCielo Foundation over a decade ago to reduce violence in his native Colombia and building the capacity of wounded warriors, former guerrilla soldiers, and indigenous peoples. He is the founder of the ElCielo Hospitality Group with over 13 restaurants in Medellín, Bogotá, Miami, and Washington D.C.
In addition to the Washington D.C. El Cielo, the restaurant also has locations in Miami, Bogotá & Medellín.
The Washington D.C. restaurant provides two unique dining rooms with a 50-seat main dining room that offers an a la carte menu with unique dishes like Yucca Gnocchis, served with sweet plantain honey and pecorino cheese foam; Tuna Watermelon Tataki, a cured tuna tiradito served with cherry tomatoes and achiote; Branzino en Costra de Sal, an entire branzino cooked in a salt crust and served with coconut rice, tamarind, and green plantains. A la carte dishes are priced between $9 and $68.
Tucked behind the main dining room is an intimate 18-seat fine dining room that offers two progressive menu formats, the Journey Menu (15 courses) and The Experience Menu (22courses) that are inspired in ancestral Colombian cuisine using creative Avant Garde techniques. The sequence of dishes not only follows a unique journey through Barrientos’s love for his home country but is meant to thrill all five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. For instance, both menus involve immersive moments like the iconic choco-therapy – a ritual where guests wash their hands with liquid chocolate and then get to taste it straight from their fingers. These menus are priced at $135 and $195 per person.
“This award is a tribute to my country and it will only encourage us to continue to push the envelope and further define excellence. I always dream of bringing Colombian cuisine to the top of the world, and the reality is that your dreams come to fruition when you are doing the things you love. This award is a testament that nothing is impossible.”
ElCielo D.C. is located at La Cosecha in the Union Market District. La Cosecha is a contemporary Latin American marketplace in the nation’s capital that celebrates centuries of Latin American heritage. It is a culinary mecca dedicated to community and conversation with a mission to foster business education throughout the continent.
“We have had the privilege to open our space at La Cosecha in this beautiful city. La Cosecha is a natural meeting point of the diverse Latin American cultures in the nation’s capital. We are proud to represent Colombia as ambassadors of our culture,” said Barrientos.