Chef Alana Puentes Debuts new Catering Company
Soon in JC: Most Wanted Food Truck
By Sally Deering
Chef Alana Puentes takes pride in her Cuban-American heritage, but when she gets behind the stove and turns on the heat, Puentes transforms her saucepan into a “melting pot” of international flavors.
After spending several years raising her son Vincent as a single mom, and working long hours cooking for large conglomerates, Puentes traded her corporate chef’s coat, recently, for her own label, Most Wanted Chef LLC. Puentes ventured out on her own to cook her cuisine, her way, and it seems to be working to her advantage. These days, her phone rings a lot more frequently; incoming calls from potential patrons craving Puentes’ unique cuisine for their special events.
No party is too small for Puentes to cater, she says. She can cook dinner for two, a corporate cocktail party, a six-course wedding reception, and a fundraiser for a thousand guests.
“Special events are my passion,” Puentes says. “I make events memorable; and for the first time in my career, every event I’ve been doing, the people tell me they’ve never had food like this. I did a Cuban party a couple of weeks ago, and last night I did an office party for 25 people. I made Mini Lamb Meatballs where you used the pita as a spoon.”
Born and raised in Queens, New York – the Howard Beach section – Puentes started out in a public relations career until one day, she decided to live her dream.
“I used to do other people’s press kits,” Puentes says, “and all I wanted to do was cook. I woke up one day and decided I wanted to be a chef. I was in restaurants for many years. I learned every single station in the restaurant. To be on top in the restaurant business, you have to be there all the time.”
Puentes says that when her business really begins to cook, she plans to help other single moms struggling to balance work and motherhood.
“When I get to be where I want to be, I want to hire single mothers who are aspiring chefs,” Puentes says. “Single mothers need help; it’s hard being a single parent. I had to find a way to do what I loved and still be the mother I wanted to be. I wanted to be more of a stay-at-home mom, see every play; have dinner on the table. I have to be able to be a part of my son’s life.”
Raising her son as a single mom has kept Puentes on her toes and sometimes when work conflicts with child-rearing, she’s grateful she has her mom and friends to take on emergency babysitting duties.
“This neighborhood has helped me grow,” Puentes says. “I have met the most amazing people.”
And being a proud mom, Puentes likes to trumpet young Vincent’s accomplishments.
“He’s bright, an ‘A’ student,” Puentes says, glowing. “And he’s got the most sophisticated palate. He tries everything.”
Building on the success of Most Wanted Chef LLC, Puentes plans to write a cookbook but first, she really want to put a Most Wanted Chef food truck on the road, bringing her international cuisine to people throughout Jersey City.
“I’m looking for an investor,” Puentes says. “I need to raise $100,000, and I’m not worried about paying it back. I know it will be a huge success because my food is so cultural, so different, and people want to try new things. I already have the name: I’ll call it the ‘Most Wanted Food Truck’.”
For more info
Chef Alana Puentes
Most Wanted Chef LLC
Chef Alana Puentes’ Lamb Meatballs
EASY LAMB MEATBALL RECIPE WITH TZATZIKI
(Can be served as a beautiful hors d’oeuvres or for dinner)
1-1/2 lb. ground lamb
3 cloves garlic (minced)
3 shallots (minced)
1/2 cup panko
3 tbsp. parsley (minced)
1 tbsp. fresh oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 hot house cucumber (seeded and grated)
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup plain Greek all fat yogurt
2 cloves garlic (grated)
1 lemon squeezed
2 tbsp. fresh dill (minced)
2 tbsp. fresh mint (minced)
Garnish- toasted pita bread and get crumbles
Mix all ingredients being careful not to over mix. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Make meatballs any size you like.
In a large sauté pan heat 3 tbsp. olive oil
Gently roll pan around to get a nice color on the meatballs (3-5 minutes depending on the size).
Let them finish in the oven. 8 minutes for bite size, 15 minutes for a larger size.
Slice cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds with a spoon.
Grate on a box cutter. Using a clean towel squeeze all the excess water from the cucumbers.
Mix the rest of the ingredients, let sit for at least an hour.
Top meatballs with feta and enjoy!