Chef Arturo Leonar was born and raised in Mexico City. He moved to New York as a young man and began working in restaurants – learning the ropes from the ground up. His natural sensibility for food and cooking, something he’d always loved to do, propelled him quickly forward.
His own path toward chef began in earnest In 1987 when he started working for Miles Angelo at Arizona 206, which at the time was the leading Southwestern eatery in New York City. What did this instill? . Eventually he went to work for David Walzog (of Tapika) – helping him open Strip House Restaurant in Livingston, New Jersey. Leonar went on to work with many well-known chefs, including Alex Garcia at Calle Ocho and James Botsacos at Park Avalon.
When he made the decision to open his own restaurant it was a natural return to his own heritage to cook traditional Mexican cuisine – the flavors of his childhood. He revisited Mexico and reconnected with the way of cooking that he remembered growing up. In 2007 Arturo opened the first incarnation of Chavela’s on Classon Avenue, to immediate response from local diners thrilled to find authentic Mexican flavors – and a charming welcome – in the heart of their developing neighborhood. He and his wife Desiree worked all aspects of the small restaurant, which in short order became a mainstay of the area.
After a few years it became evident that in order to accommodate the enthusiastic numbers wishing for a place at the table more space would be needed. Moving to the corner of Franklin and Sterling Place in 2011 afforded the restaurant more space, and Chavela’s became a pioneer, and an anchor, on what over time has become a street burgeoning with creative new businesses. Diners who had fallen in love with those authentic flavors now flock to this corner hub, bringing new friends and family along with them, surrounding themselves with colorful décor that transports them, for a time, off the streets of Brooklyn into what feels like the heart of Mexico. Arturo and his team welcome them warmly and with open arms – like welcoming guests into their home. It can get crowded – many regulars will confess – but it is like a party. Full of lively music, delicious food, great cocktails and lots of laughter.