Rene De Leon’s career as a chef has taken him around the world. From his upbringing in Las Vegas, to his culinary education at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, to restaurant posts in Boston, Chicago, Denmark and Spain, he now helms the kitchen at Le Sel in Nashville, Tennessee.
De Leon’s menu at Le showcases a genre of new-world French cuisine that has made its way across the Atlantic demonstrating his culinary vision, the result of his dynamic career with some of the industry’s most iconic chefs.
Starting with an internship at Icarus in the South End of Boston, De Leon learned teamwork and camaraderie with Chef/Owner Chris Douglass. After culinary school, he returned to Boston to continue with Douglass – an experience that’s remained deeply influential in his current role – before working with Food & Wine Best New Chefs Steve Rosen at Salts in Cambridge and Michael Leviton at Lumiere thereafter.
De Leon made his way west, working with Jean Roberts at Pigall’s in Cincinnati then arriving in Chicago in 2005, where he landed a position on the line at Moto, a restaurant known for its technological innovation and attention to detail. He joined world-renowned chef Grant Achatz at his Michelin-starred restaurant Alinea shortly after, in 2007. De Leon perfected his skills in both the front and back of house to match Achatz’s standards, contributing to the 2010 team that made Alinea the best restaurant in North America and winner of the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Service in the United States.
De Leon’s association with Achatz and his partner Nick Kokonas extended for six years, during which time he also served as Sous Chef at Next – a part of the James Beard Award winning team for Best New Restaurant. He was instrumental in collaborations with chefs like Thomas Keller and Daniel Humm and staged under Rene Redzepi at Noma and Jordi and Joan Roca at el Celler de Can Roca, continuing his culinary education further still. He parted ways with the team in 2013 after many successful years together.
Now in Nashville, De Leon combines his expertise in the fine dining world with his fascination for the new movements in French cuisine to create Le Sel, a joint venture with Benjamin and Max Goldberg of Strategic Hospitality.