Meet Your Chef: Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Angel Muñoz oversees Maya at The Westin in Avon
Whether ordering to-go or dining in, local chefs are working hard to keep people fed safely this winter
Editor’s note: To answer the Vail Daily’s Meet Your Chef questionnaire, email Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Arts & Entertainment Editor Casey Russell (email@example.com).
Chef Angel Muñoz Jr. – who was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, before he started his cooking career in San Diego — has been greatly influenced by Mexican-American culture. A student of the Sustainable Cuisine program at Colorado Mountain College, he was hired as a line cook at The Westin Riverfront in 2012 and has risen through the ranks to take the lead position as executive chef.
Muñoz oversees Maya, the resort’s modern Mexican kitchen created by Richard Sandoval, as well as The Lookout lobby bar. He is also in charge of all food served in the resort’s more than 7,500 square feet of mountain event space, which includes the 4,000-square-foot Riverside Ballroom with floor-to-ceiling windows offering stunning views of Beaver Creek , and a 2,000-square-foot outdoor banquet terrace.
1. How long have you lived in the valley and what brought you here?
I have been in Colorado for eight years. I came here to further my culinary studies at Colorado Mountain College’s Sustainable Cuisine program and to enjoy Colorado’s amazing beauty.
2. Where did your passion for cooking come from?
Cooking has been a big part of my life since I was a kid — I like to eat a lot. But I am also passionate about working every day with amazing and talented people and being a part of something that is unique and special.
3. What do you enjoy about being a chef in the Vail Valley?
Being a chef in the Vail Valley is a very special opportunity to cook for people from all around the world, while also living and working in a multi-cultural community.
4. What’s one thing you are proud of that people might not know?
I am most proud to help people develop both professionally and personally. Every day, I strive to create a strong work culture in our kitchen. Seeing our associates grow, that really makes me happy.
5. Skier or snowboarder (or neither)? How often do you get out and where do you go. Also, what are your favorite summer activities?
I used to snowboard and I loved it, but then a couple of years ago I broke my collarbone. I try to give 100% at work every single day, so now I embrace the many summer outdoor activities we can enjoy here in the Vail Valley. I love hiking and cooking outside.
6. What do you like to eat?
Tacos. I enjoy a lot of different types of food, but at the end of each day, what is most important is sharing a meal with family and friends.
7. How does Vail Valley dining compare to other places you’ve worked?
Vail Valley diners have very high standards. I worked in kitchens in Mexico and California before coming to the Vail Valley, and I believe that the standards here are higher in terms of food quality and execution, especially at The Westin Riverfront.
8. Who has helped you along the way/what inspires you?
Books, colleagues, family and knowing that each day is a new chance to do better.
9. Any funny stories over the years?
Every day something funny happens in the kitchen. One of my favorite memories is going up on Vail Mountain to do a tasting for more than 600 people. We had to prep everything in the Maya kitchen, then move all of the product up the mountain by gondola, get the crazy tasting done and then bring all of the equipment and leftovers back down. It was a super fun day, prep to finish.
10. What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I would love to be a photographer or a drummer.
11. What can diners expect from a meal at your restaurant?
I think Maya serves up some for the best tacos in the Vail Valley. We also have a lot of variety on our menu and can accommodate different dietary restrictions and personal preferences.
For more information about Maya, visit richardsandoval.com.
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