Originally published on StarChefs.com, photography by Will Blunt.
At 4 years old, César Murillo immigrated from Chihuahua to Dallas with his parents. He always loved working with his hands, often helping his mom with flower arrangements for weddings. As an undocumented immigrant, Murillo knew he wouldn’t be able to travel outside of the country and that he would have limited choices for college. After graduating from Texas Culinary Academy, he set his sights on Chicago in order to cook under his idol, Chef Rick Bayless.
Murillo’s career kicked off at Bayless’ James Beard Award-winning Frontera Grill and Xoco. To learn about farming and hyper-seasonal ingredients, Murillo travelled west to cook at California restaurants Nopalito and Mateo’s Cocina Latina. In 2012, he returned to Dallas, where he worked his way up to lead line cook at FT33 before returning to Chicago. He bolstered his fine dining experience as sous at the Michelin-starred Grace and Sepia then used his connections to consult for a spell. By 2020, he was ready to fill the shoes of North Pond Executive Chef Bruce Sherman. Murillo maintained the Michelin star that the waterside restaurant had earned shortly before his arrival and is striving hard for a second. Using ingredients from his rooftop garden, the plates reflect an inquisitive spirit and subtle nods to his heritage — while staying true to North Pond’s farm-to-table DNA.