Born in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico in “El Yunque,” one of the last remaining rain forests of the world, Nelson Millán, Executive Chef of the San Antonio (Texas) Country Club since 2010, began his professional career at an early age in his homeland.
Although he began his early career in Puerto Rico, cooking was not his initial choice of a career. Chef Millán was just a year away from finishing his studies in Political Science at the University of Puerto Rico when an opportunity arose at the School of Hotel and Tourism in San Juan. Twenty-five culinary scholarships were offered up to the most qualified applicants. He applied and was accepted among 364 applicants. Over the next two years, he studied intensely in the classroom as well as the kitchen. Upon graduation, Nelson accepted an internship with Hilton Hotels.
Chef Millán’s career started taking off when he began competing nationally and internationally as part of the Junior, and later Senior, Team of the American Culinary Federation. Following numerous competitions in Puerto Rico, South Carolina and New York, and after winning several gold and silver medals, Chef Nelson continued his travels from the Caribe Hilton in San Juan to the Aruba Hilton, and ultimately the Noga Hilton in Geneva, Switzerland to sharpen his culinary skills.
Upon his return to Puerto Rico, Chef Millán opened and operated a very successful casual restaurant in downtown Rio Grande for three and a half years. However, his heart was in the club and hotel industry, which he re-entered as Chef Garde Manger of the Westin Rio Mar, soon working his way up to Assistant Executive Chef of that property’s country club.
In 1999, Chef Millán moved to Coronado, Calif., where he assumed the position of Chef Garde Manger at the prestigious Forbes 5-star/AAA 5-diamond Hotel Del Coronado. Chef Millán soon progressed to become Chef de Cuisine for the hotel’s fine-dining and casual restaurants.
In 2002, Chef Millán moved with his family to join the elite culinary team of the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla., as Chef Garde Manger. By now his culinary skills had expanded to include carving spectacular ice sculptures and producing extravagant gourmet dinners.
Chef Millán’s roots in Latin Caribbean cuisine, combined with French techniques, proved to be a successful combination—so successful, in fact, that in 2004, he traveled to New York City with a select group of otehr Ocean Reef Club chefs to cook a memorable Latin Caribbean dinner at the prestigious James Beard House.
In 2005, Chef Millán was appointed as the Ocean Reef Club’s Chef de Cuisine, to open its newly rebuilt Galley restaurant with great success.
In 2007 Chef Millán moved up the Atlantic coast to open the new Beach Club at The Cloister in Sea Island, Ga., an exclusive resort community that is part of the Sea Island Company, which made history in 2009 by becoming the first company in the world to get have four properties rated as Forbes 5- Star/AAA 5-Diamond.
While he has been with San Antonio CC since August 2010, Chef Millán has also taught Latin Caribbean Cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.
In addition to his culinary talent, Chef Millán is a very accomplished musician; he also enjoys reading, business entrepreneurship and spending quality time with his wife and two children in his new adopted hometown of San Antonio.
Chef Millán was featured in a Chef’s Thoughts article in the April 2018 issue of Club & Resort Business’ Chef to Chef magazine and contributes regular blog entries to the Chef to Chef website and weekly Food & Beverage e-newsletter.
This is Chef Millán’s third time as a Chef to Chef Conference presenter; he also led a “World of Flavors” demonstration session at the 2017 Conference in Atlanta and provided a memorable ice-carving demonstration at the 2014 Conference in San Antonio.