Our American Dream: Eduardo Perez, From Gardener to Vegas Executive Chef

Eduardo Perez' rise to Executive Chef at Lupo at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.


Across the United States, in all fields of endeavor, Latinos are working to uphold their place in American society. Fox News Latino is proud to present "Our American Dream" – a series of snapshots and profiles of Latino success stories. 

At Wolfgang Puck's first Italian restaurant, in Las Vegas, Guatemalan-born executive chef Eduardo Pérez works day and night to make sure his restaurant stands out in a town filled with headliner chefs.

“You want to keep a good restaurant going so your customers will come back,” said Pérez.

Making pizzas, anybody can make a pizza. But when it comes to the sautéing and tasting, the smelling of the food, that’s when you really start developing your skills.

- Eduardo Pérez

But what many folks eating at the restaurant might not realize is Pérez didn’t take the traditional culinary route toward becoming an executive chef. There was no fancy culinary school for Pérez. His journey started as an 18-year old immigrant gardener for one of Puck’s restaurants in Hollywood, Spago, back in 1985.

It was better than his previous job in Guatemala, where he said he was paid “probably $10 a week.”

Pérez eventually worked his way into the kitchen of the restaurant as a dishwasher, where he was also in charge of prepping vegetables and would bake pizzas from time to time. A year and a half later, Pérez was offered his first cooking opportunity.

“The chef was leaving, so they offered me a job making pizzas,” said Pérez. “Making pizzas, anybody can make a pizza. But when it comes to the sautéing and tasting, the smelling of the food, that’s when you really start developing your skills.”

Pérez never looked back after the opportunity, working the pasta station during this time as well. After a brief stint at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Malibu, California, where he learned the purchasing side of the industry, he came back to work at Spago before being promoted to sous chef of Puck’s “Café” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 1993.

The title, however, was more than just a sous chef.

“I was having to do everything,” said Pérez, “running the restaurant as sous chef, but doing the chef’s job.”

The hard work didn’t go unnoticed, as Pérez would get promoted to banquet chef and line chef of Spago, this time for Puck’s Las Vegas location. And then five years ago, Pérez reached the rare stratosphere of being promoted to executive chef of Puck’s first Italian restaurant, Lupo, in one of the most competitive restaurant cities in the country.

Pérez’s unconventional journey has benefited him immensely in his current role as an executive chef.

“Now no one can tell me I can’t do anything,” said Pérez. “Learning from the bottom up as dishwasher to prep to butcher, I can pretty much do anything.”

As for folks in similar situations as Pérez looking to achieve the American dream, he has a simple message.

“Just work hard… and accomplish your goals.”

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Pete Griffin is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here.