Hard work, head down. That’s the attitude that has gotten Ronaldo Linares from helping his mom in the kitchen to appearing on such show as The Food Network’s Chopped and BBC America’s Chef Race. Today Ronaldo does TV appearances, volunteers his time with organizations like HISPA and AARP, and works at Martino’s Cuban Restaurant which has been owned and run by his family for the last 25 years – but everything was hard won.
Linares was only eight years old when his father decided Colombia was too dangerous for his family. It was 1989 and the Medellín Cartel violence was at its peak. “I heard bombings, witnessed people being killed, it wasn’t safe so my Father made the decision to get us out of Medellin,” Linares explained. It was nearly from one day to the next that Linares suddenly found himself in Miami being greeted by the outstretched arms of his relatives. “We were wealthy in Colombia and we went from that to being basically homeless in America.” When his family relocated again to New Jersey the transition really hit. “I remember arriving in March wearing sweats and sweater, just so not ready for New Jersey weather. But I was excited.” Within two and a half years of arriving in America his Father opened up their family restaurant, which is one of the top Cuban restaurants in the tri-state area. Ultimately he attributes the atrocities he witnessed as a child with his ability to persevere when things get tough, “I always think well I’ve been through worse. It prepared me for tough events in my life.”
As a kid he was a troublemaker but that exuberance is responsible for the two things that led him to becoming a chef: spending a lot of time with his mother and joining the Marines. “I had to spend a lot of time with my mom because I was always in trouble and so I always had to go with her to the market when we were in Colombia. I would to listen to her negotiate and then we’d go home and I’d watch her prepare what we bought. I had to help her in the kitchen and it made me really love cooking.” It helped that both his parents are amazing chefs. “My mom is more farm to table” and he describes his father’s style as “more refined, french and fancy.”
The first time Ronaldo cooked something on his own he prepared jambalaya for a school project. “It was so good no one believed that I made it! My mom had to come tell the teacher I made it because she wanted to give me a zero,” Linares remembered. From then on he was sure he was on to something.
In 1999 a month after graduating high school he joined the Marine Corps in order to “straighten up.” There he spent four years working in the kitchen and cooking for 2000 soldiers per day. “I was focused and knew what I wanted to find myself and to stop my nonsense.” Linares came out of the Marines a sergeant and went right into The Institute of Culinary Education where he perfected his craft and found his style, ultimately landing on Cuban food and fusion cooking.
Today you’ll find him working with the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and doing his part to serve the kids in inner city schools.
Below, you’ll find an exclusive Mother’s Day recipe Linares created in honor of his mother and wife, that you can whip up for your mamí too.
My memories of pancakes goes back to my early years in this world. Once a week my mother would make pancakes for me and my three brothers. Pancakes piled high, homemade butter, syrup, and a fork in hand. They were so special, fluffy, flavorful, buttery, and syrupy. Everything a pancake should be. This is what goes through my mind when I eat pancakes now.
Even though I am a 36-year-old Cubanito, I still keep this tradition alive but as we know those pancakes can be very unhealthy. So I shook things up and came up with this recipe made with bananas, eggs, oatmeal four, and a mix of berries. Don’t tell my mom, but I think my version is better.
- 6 bananas
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 eggs
- 1.5 cups oatmeal flour
- Into 3 separate bowls, add 2 bananas and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into each one. Mash up with fork, making sure bananas are completely smashed.
- Add 2 eggs to each bowl and mix until smooth.
- Add ½ cup of Oatmeal flour into each bowl and mix with fork until a batter like consistency has been reached.
- Into the 1st bowl add ½ cup of blueberries and mix gently with fork.
- Into the second bowl add ½ cup of raspberries and mix gently with fork.
- Into the 3rd bowl add ½ cup of blackberries and mix gently with fork.
- Preheat a large pan or a flat skillet on medium heat. Apply cooking spray to prevent pancakes from sticking.
- Using a small ladle (2oz) scoop out batter and add it to the pan. Only make 4 at a time. Each side will take about 2-3 minutes to cook but keep an eye on it to prevent them from over cooking.
- Use the remaining fruit for garnish when serving the pancakes. Enjoy!!!