Chef Ricardo Cardona first got his start as a dishwasher in 1982 after coming to the United States during the war in El Salvador. He was only 15, and within two weeks he was working with the cooks. At 19, he became a father, something which changed his mindset completely. With a newfound responsibility and a love for cooking, Ricardo Cardona decided to become a chef.
While Cardona has over twenty years of experience in the culinary field, he never received official culinary training. Rather than attending culinary school, Cardona is largely self-taught, having learned the craft through his experiences. Working in little cafes, he picked up different skills and eventually worked at the Ritz-Carlton at the age of 18. This is where he claims he honed much of his unofficial training.
With years of immersive experience, his culinary style is best described as a fusion. Staying true to his roots, his dishes are often Latin-inspired, and he incorporates different styles into traditional meals. Drawing influence from his travels to France, South America, and Thailand, he blends Latin American dishes with cooking styles from around the world to create his own unique fusion of flavors.
Through these experiences, he has learned many different techniques, but claims that the quality of a dish lies in the ingredients. With the quality of a dish being the essence of a plate, Cardona claims that cooking is 30% technique and 70% ingredients. However, Cardona doesn’t have a favorite dish. When asked his favorite meal to prepare, Cardona responded that he enjoys creating sauces, which likely stems from his original position as a saucier.
Now well into his career, Cardona’s many accomplishments place him high within his industry. Having worked for Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, and most recently the New York Yankees, Chef Cardona is renowned for his talents. However, when asked to reflect on his greatest experiences and accomplishments so far, his answer did not include his work for big-name celebrities.
His greatest experience was instead working with the Cordon Bleu school in Mexico. He aided in the final examinations of these aspiring chefs by asking them to follow instructions on a dish he created. Inspired by the elements of earth, fire, water, and air, Cardona created a dish and walked the students through the process as part of their graduation requirement.
And regarding his greatest accomplishment to date, Cardona stated that he was most proud of his ability to create concepts and restaurants that are still open and successful. In fact, he hopes to open a new restaurant soon. Originally scheduled to open more recently, the pandemic has changed the course of his plans, though he still hopes to open this restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey, which will serve Mediterranean food with Spanish twist.
After all his successes, Chef Cardona is a major proponent of giving back. Working with a variety of philanthropic ventures, Cardona believes that giving is very important when you have the power to do so. Cardona has joined Chef Jose Andres and the organization World Central Kitchen, which works to create solutions to hunger and poverty around the world. Most recently, these efforts have been focused on Covid-19 relief, and Chef Cardona helped create 2,500 meals each day for churches, hospitals, shelters, and those in need. Cardona also works with the Cristian Rivera Foundation, a cause that is very close to his heart, as he used to cook for the founder’s family when Cristian was little.
Chef Ricardo Cardona believes very strongly in his philanthropic work and is even more passionate about these things during the current state of the world. The culinary industry has been widely hurt during the pandemic, and Cardona urges people to support small restaurants, hire cooks, and create jobs for those struggling. With his philanthropic outlook on life, he believes that people should work together as they look towards the future and support one another in whatever ways they can.
To read more about Chef Cardona and the organizations mentioned in this article, click the links below: