Juan Manuel Barrientos | Happiness Is The Core Of Success


Many of us are searching for the right formula for success. We set goals, create businesses and marketing plans, compare ourselves with the competition while immersing in many hours of overwhelming actions assuming that is how it is supposed to be. Yes, like this you can also get things done and achieve the final results you want but what about the satisfaction during the process?


For Juan Manuel Barrientos, an internationally renowned Colombian Chef, happiness is the core of his actions that translate into success in everything he does. This inspiring young entrepreneur is the leader of Elcielo’s project, a business in which he can fully fulfill his motto: “Do what you love, nothing less than that.”

Elcielo is a family business with offices and restaurants in Bogota and Medellin, Colombia and Miami, the USA integrating more than 150 employees. From childhood, Juan Manuel was trained to be a person that promotes peace. With great satisfaction together with his family, he is leading the Elcielo Foundation, a project that helps soldiers wounded in combat in Colombia and demobilized from other armed groups, to cook together with a mindset of “we cook the peace of Colombia.”

Juan Manuel’s conscious desire to become a Chef started at the age of 19. While living in Medellín, Colombia, he read an article about the creative workshops that had two of the most celebrated Chefs in the world: Ferran Adriá and Joan Mari Arzak. When he finished reading the text, he realized that gastronomy was a world full of creative possibilities.

Soon he started in Argentina to take cooking courses at the Mariano Moreno School, to later join the Colombian school in his native Medellín. After Juan Manuel became an assistant to Iwao Komiyama-Master with honors in the culinary arts of Japanese Cuisine-cataloged by many as the best Japanese chef outside the country of the rising sun, and then he went to San Sebastian, Spain to study the Vanguard Kitchen.

After several years applying to work at Ferran Adriá’s Bulli and Arzak, as by magical circumstances he received a job offer at Arzak.  At the Arzark restaurant he learned everything about the restaurant business; while many wanted to go there to improve as cooks, Juan Manuel did it because he wanted to learn not only about the kitchen but about all the components of the place, about how it worked as a successful fine dining restaurant.

He immediately discovered his passion for avant-guard de cuisine, which Spain has been a pioneer and Arzak at that time was ranked the best restaurant in the world. Despite exhausting hours of standing, he was very excited about everything he was learning. Ever since Juan Manuel was interested in the art of gastronomy, he understood that to have his own creative gastronomic workshop, he has first to own a restaurant, which is how the idea of Elcielo was born. Even before he went to Europe, he bought all the most contemporary equipment elements that were used at that time for cooking.

“I have learned to be happy in any place and circumstance. I have learned to enjoy what I have and to create my destiny consciously. The greatest achievement of my life is being able to dedicate myself to doing what I love and sharing this with all my family.” – Juan Manuel Barrientos.

From both, Iwao Komiyama and Arzak Juan Manuel have learned that food is not only a matter of taste but also a unique experience when all the senses are involved.

Juan Manuel loves cooking, and he prefers to be called a Cook rather than a chef. He feels fulfilled when he creates a new menu. Creativity is his favorite activity and cooking is an unlimited source of creativity. His first inspiration for Elcielo was to create a reinterpretation of Colombian cuisine by blending tradition and avant-garde techniques, which is why his kitchen is defined as author’s cuisine.

Elcielo seeks to create sensory gastronomic experiences, through tasting menus inspired by Latin American ancestral roots and studies of neurosciences for the stimulation of the senses using the best of local products. As a chef he travels the world rescuing the global impact movements, studying the ancestral kitchen, investigating the roots. The most important findings of these trips are implemented in his kitchen by using avant-garde cooking techniques and applying the study of neurosciences to understand and enhance the impact on the diner that creates a new proposal called Modern Latin American Kitchen.

Juan Manuel is a pioneer in implementing and applying to gastronomy the G-local philosophical concept; term of sociology that means to think Global and act Local. He believes that we are in a globalized world, with revolutionary and exciting ideas, but that we must land them in our particular reality acting responsibly and locally, seeking to adopt the best of these global trends to local contexts with the least possible impact on the average balance, environmental.

His idea is not only to practice the Glocal philosophy in his gastronomic business of Fine Dining and comfort food but to massify it within the gastronomic world and in many other areas. Juan Manuel believes that the key to succeeding in the hospitality business is knowing that people no longer want to pay for products, people like to spend on experiences.

Currently living in Miami and such a cosmopolitan country as it is the United States, he considers himself a citizen of the world. He lives traveling a significant part of the year all over the planet, but to him, home can be any place where he has a project that he likes to take care of as a father does with his children.

Coming from a country with fresh ingredients of unsurpassed quality all year round and a cultural fusion that makes the dishes unique and delicious, Juan Manuel is not only the ambassador of the innovative Colombian cuisine but also an example of living the life he considers is best for him.

“… The formula of success is to do what one loves and do it well by following the instincts; to pay attention to that inner self and intuition-which is never wrong even if everyone calls us crazy,” says Juan Manuel.

“If one believes in oneself, whatever one’s dream may be, the Universe and other beings will contribute to make that something real and materialize. This is what I have always done, I have learned from my own experience, and I have also seen it as a truth in the lives of other people I admire. We are creators of our lives, and if we do it consciously, we will enjoy the process more.” – Juan Manuel Barrientos


Photography Mario Alzate