Get to Know Wild Common’s James Beard Award-Nominated Chef
Chef Orlando Pagán leads the distinguished culinary program as Executive Chef of Wild Common and our sister property, events venue, Cannon Green. Nominated for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation, the team here at Wild Common believes he is the best Chef every single day. Get to know our talented and fun-loving Chef a little more.
A Chef Is Born
Pagán grew up in Puerto Rico around food and always enjoyed cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. He started by cooking with his family and working in a restaurant as a busboy. He knew his dream of food was bigger than the island he was on and he would have to move where the best chefs trained and worked. After leaving home at 21 to attend Johnson & Wales University in Miami, he met his wife and started working at the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove. Later, he headed to San Francisco to work as Chef de Partie at Michelin starred Gary Danko, Chef de Cuisine at Mandarin Oriental’s Silk, and Executive Chef at Michelin starred Ame and The Village Pub.
Anything But Common
After he and his wife, Nora, had children, Pagán wanted to get back to the East Coast to be closer to family. Drawn to the burgeoning culinary scene of the Lowcountry, Orlando found a new home for his family and his cooking in Charleston. He joined McCrady’s restaurant in 2017 starting as Chef de Cuisine under Chef Sean Brock who promoted him to Executive Chef a year later. He quickly caught the attention of Easton Porter Group (whose portfolio of Charleston properties includes Zero George Hotel and Zero Restaurant + Bar) who asked him to open the new Wild Common in 2019. The restaurant is now on the map as one of the city’s most delicious and adventurous tasting menus around.
Creating An Experience
Pagán’s cooking style is all about the senses and the experience. He wants you to be hit with a nice aroma as the plate heads to your table and for your eyes to feast and your mouth to salivate as the plate is set down in front of you. And of course, he wants you to love what you’re tasting. After leaving the table, Chef Orlando wants you to remember the experience Bringing unforgettable experiences onto a plate is his true passion and life’s work.
Follow the Leader
As a boss, Pagán believes in leading by example. Early in his career, he heard many head chefs yelling and making a scene, inevitably causing trouble for their kitchen staff. Chef Orlando knew that he wanted to do things differently when he became an Executive Chef as he firmly believes that a team can’t succeed if they don’t feel safe. So, he walks into his kitchen with a calm and easy-going demeanor, making sure his team knows he’s with them in the thick of it and he doesn’t ask anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. A true teammate and leader in all respects.
No Place Like Home
In his kitchen at home, you can find Pagán cooking with lots of vegetables and very little fat. He is a big advocate of clean eating saying that if you’re nervous to start cooking for yourself, you just have to try and make it fun. Start with a simple whole chicken, put a lemon inside, sprinkle some thyme, and roast it. Don’t worry about making mistakes, that’s how you learn! Outside of the kitchen, you can find Pagán spending time with his wife and kids and playing golf.