Chef Amarilys Colón believes that serving a home cooked dish is to show love. Low and slow dishes artfully crafted through braising, roasting, and slow cooking – building the flavors in layers over time – those are her favorite dishes to prepare. “To me, it shows love” she says. Currently, Amarilys is exploring the depths and variety of Italian flavor in her role as Executive Chef and Business Director at Porto Boston – the Coastal Italian gem from Chef Jody Adams and Eric Papachristos nestled in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay Neighborhood. Originally joining the team at Porto in 2018 as a line cook, Amarilys quickly advanced through hands-on experience to lead line cook, sous chef, and executive chef. In her current role, Amarilys is embracing both her joy of being in the kitchen while also teaching, training, and motivating her colleagues to grow and improve their craft – another expressed passion for Chef Amarilys.
Amarilys was born in Puerto Rico. Her earliest memories involve large family gatherings, lots of laughter, music, and of course – food! Being so young at the time, she wanted to be close to her mom which led her to the kitchen at a very early age. When her family relocated to Belmont, Massachusetts at age 6, the culture shock of integrating into a new community and learning a new language was overwhelming – and being in the kitchen with her mother was a source of comfort. Learning to make some of Amarilys’ life-long favorite dishes during this impressionable time- Pernil, Arroz Con Gandules, Tostones- proved to be the key ingredients for creating a meaningful career ahead.
Just after high school, the path was not clear at first – as most experienced at this age, Amarilys felt stuck between wanting to make her family proud and finding a career path that was exciting, meaningful, and gratifying. After a year at UMASS Boston, Amarilys decided that hands-on experience was a life better suited for her. With a trend of quickly advancing in her roles, Amarilys’ dedicated work ethic led her from hourly barista to the general manager of a Boston area Starbucks by the time she was 23 years old. Proudly staying with the company for 10 years, she attributes much of her early industry knowledge to this experience – the systems, numbers, reporting, and “legendary hospitality”. It simply fueled her for more. When her background passion for cooking and food grew even stronger, she felt compelled to accept a new role at a local cafe bakeshop called Vicki Lee’s, now known as Oven Bird, where it would allow her to get “closer to the food”. Although this role was Front of House Manager, you could find Amarilys in the kitchen any opportunity she had – talking to the chef, learning about the menu, and even staying late past her shift just in case they needed help with prep.
When she felt ready for a more intense food exposure, Amarilys dove head first into the restaurant industry with her first official full-time role in the kitchen making salads and calamari (yes, that’s it!) at Figs in Beacon Hill. After 6 months, a former guest from the bakeshop connected Amarilys with Chef Jody Adams which ultimately led her to the culinary experience she was craving – at Porto Boston.