Cesar Murillo and his family emigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Texas when he was just four years old. Murillo knew from a young age he wanted to create and to connect with his culture, and was drawn to the sensory experience of the kitchen. After completing his studies at Texas Culinary Academy he set his sights on Chicago, and in 2010, Murillo was awarded an internship at the influential Frontera Grill. While he had worked at other kitchens, Murillo feels his career launched from Frontera, where under Rick Bayless he developed a strong work ethic, and learned the importance of remaining humble and staying involved in the kitchen, no matter your position. After leaving Frontera, he went west to the Bay Area of San Francisco to better connect with and understand what goes into the growing and raising of the products he was using daily. He visited farms, ranches, farmers markets and vineyards, immersing himself in the farm-to-fork culture of the region. While there, Murillo worked his way up the culinary ladder at notable eateries including San Francisco’s Nopalito and Healdsburg’s Mateo’s Cocina Latina, both hyper-seasonal restaurants dedicated to traditional Mexican cuisine. After two years, Murillo returned to Texas, working at the acclaimed fine dining restaurant FT33 in Dallas, where he sharpened and refined his skills and was quickly elevated to lead line cook. While there, he set up a stage at the recently opened Grace in Chicago, and so impressed Chef Curtis Duffy that he offered Murillo a position after one week. Over his three years at Grace, he was able to explore his creativity and push himself in ways he had never before; while there, the restaurant earned countless accolades, including attaining three Michelin stars with Murillo as sous chef. In 2017, he was offered the senior sous chef position at critical and consumer favorite Sepia, where he was able to flex that creative muscle and express his culinary voice. In 2020, Murillo joined the North Pond team.
Murillo loves the sensory engagement of cooking, of creating and finishing a dish and finding ways to blend elegance with simplicity on the plate. He describes his style as one driven by the season, grounded in vegetables and “thoughtfully curious.” When not in the kitchen, Murillo and his wife might be found indulging in a great meal, or hitting a trail somewhere with their family, exploring and enjoying nature. They live in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago.