LJ Wiley has thrown his heart and soul into every culinary role he’s ever had, each a stepping stone on his journey to finding a way to enlighten people with illuminating information and incredible flavors.
Wiley developed a strong foundation from the start, working at Smith & Wollensky, Brennan’s and Bank. In 2005, he ventured to New York City to work for Jean Georges Vongerichten at Spice Market, and to attend the French Culinary Institute (FCI). Realizing quickly that he was learning far more in the kitchens of New York’s elite, Wiley sacrificed formal classroom training to devote more time to his teachers at Spice Market and high-end giants like Morimoto, Perry Street, Alto and Gordon Ramsay.
In 2007, Wiley trekked to Macau, China with his New York mentor, Stanley Wong, to open three restaurants in the Venetian Hotel & Casino. Before leaving Macau, he also assisted in opening a fine-dining steakhouse in the Hotel Grand Lisboa, alongside Don Alfonso Restaurant and L’Atelier de [Joel] Robuchon. Returning to Houston in April of 2008, Wiley took a sous chef position at Cullen’s Grille, adding many of his gastronomic inventions to the menu while structuring the administration of the kitchen.
Now co-owner of and executive chef at Yelapa Playa Mexicana, Wiley’s creations are often described as inspiring. With micro-seasonal menu changes, locally-sourced product and a borderless style, he leads the Yelapa concept, teaching young cooks variations on global themes while dazzling patrons with an unusual Pacific Coast Mexican style.