It’s a bird! It’s a plane!

Saturday’s Chef Demo features

Hector Santiago of Pura Vida – 10:00 am on 10/9

Chef Demos are sponsored by Whole Foods Market

It’s one of Atlanta’s favorite chefs! As though his restaurant Pura Vida and street food phenomenon Burro Pollo weren’t enough to tempt Chef Hector Santiago’s devoted following, our food hero just opened Super Pan, too! These three delicious destinations combined are enough to vanquish any size hunger foe. And it’s quite a tasty battle indeed.

You might recognize Chef Hector from another tasty battle, Bravo’s “Top Chef: Las Vegas,” where he represented Atlanta and his fans by showcasing his signature Latin flavors with a passion for what he does best – cook with soul. Viewers also caught a glimpse of Santiago’s sense of adventure. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., he’s worked with some of the world’s most respected forward-thinking chefs, including José Andrés, Andoni Luis Aduriz and Wylie Dufresne.

It was nine years ago that his journey led Chef Hector and his wife Leslie to open Pura Vida, which means “pure life.” The heart of this Poncey Highland favorite is in the playful experience of casual meeting upscale, interesting ingredient combinations meeting modern technique, and above all, warm service. A native Puerto Rican, Santiago’s menu is inspired by all of Latin America and he is constantly studying, researching and experimenting with new flavors. His travels to Spain, Latin America and Peru are evident in the bold, creative dishes represented at Pura Vida. And you’ll want to be on the look out for Gastro Treks with Chef Hector – you can join in his travels for some tasty research, too! The 2011 schedule will be posted on Pura Vida’s website soon.

In the meantime, you can travel through your taste buds at this week’s Market. At Saturday’s demo, don’t be surprised if you see peppers in the mix. Inspired by a trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua where he foraged for local peppers, Santiago has planted a chile garden on Pura Vida’s rooftop. He’s also committed to sourcing from local produce vendors – just another couple of reasons why this multiple James Beard Award nominee is one of our local foodie heroes!

- Jennifer Maley