Pepe Moncayo's food at Cranes in Washington, D.C., reflects the sum of his experience

Menu Talk: The Catalonian chef spent a decade in Singapore but also fell in love with Japanese food before opening his restaurant.

Pepe Moncayo is the chef and owner of Cranes, a restaurant he opened in Washington, D.C., in February of 2020 to enthusiastic acclaim. Of course, normal operations ceased five weeks later, but the fine-dining restaurant survived and the chef’s food, which reflects his own culinary journey, continues to be appreciated by guests.

Chef Moncayo

Pepe Moncayo | Photo courtesy: Cranes.

Moncayo was born and raised in the suburbs of Barcelona and started cooking after his mother passed away when he was 13. He would accompany her to the market, carrying her bags for her as she shopped for food for their meals, and he continued to follow in her footsteps after her death, preparing meals for his father, who worked in a factory, and his older brother and younger sister. He realized that cooking was the field he wanted to go into when, as he searched for colleges to attend, the only thing that appealed to him was culinary school. 

After graduation he worked at some of the best restaurants in Barcelona until his mentor, Santi Santamaria of Can Fabes restaurant, invited him to work under him at Santi restaurant at the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore. Moncayo stayed in that city-state, working in various positions until he eventually opened his own restaurant, Bam! in 2013.

During his stay in Asia he also visited Japan to learn about that country’s cuisine, and he fell in love with it.

That influence is reflected in the food at Cranes, a restaurant named for the migratory birds. Moncayo says his own journeys have had a strong impact on his own cooking, so the name seemed appropriate.

Listen as the chef-owner shares his culinary legacy and his approach to cooking and running restaurants.

This interview was part of a new podcast series called Menu Talk, a collaboration between Restaurant Business Senior Menu Editor Pat Cobe and Bret Thorn, senior food & beverage editor of Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality. You can subscribe to it wherever you listen to podcasts.

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