Massachusetts-born Alex Stupak was a pre-teen prep cook. (The 12-year-old culinary boy wonder had convinced a restaurant’s owner he was of legal age.) From there, it was adolescence-meets-culinary education, with Stupak enrolling in his high school’s culinary arts program and the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. He even started participating in culinary competitions, reaching the national level by the time he was a senior.
Inevitably, Stupak won a full scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America and then an externship at Boston’s prestigious Clio, where he got a mandatory but intriguing taste of the pastry station. With no plans to go into pastry full time, Stupak became tournant at Chicago’s Tru, followed by a sous chef position at The Federalist in Boston. Hungry for more creative control, Stupak began pondering his options. In a twist of fate, a newly fired pastry chef gave Stupak the opportunity he needed to take control of that department.
Stupak returned to Clio to become the restaurant’s first pastry chef (hailed as “visionary” by Food & Wine). Next came modernist shrines Alinea in 2005 and wd~50 in 2007. Although creatively inspired, Stupak ultimately questioned his place within “modernist” movement, realizing that this new way of thinking could become another format to be mimicked. The only logical progression for him was to evolve through a simple question: “What do you love to eat most?” His answer came in March 2010 with the opening of Mexican restaurants Empellón Taqueria and shortly after Empellón Cocina, as much reverent temples as culinary playgrounds for Stupak’s tireless creativity.