Learning to cook his grandmother’s Cuban food was always a passion for Yancy Perez. “I would watch my grandma cook and write down on a little notepad the recipes, and I’ve just been trying to perfect them,” says the Miami native, who was raised in Las Vegas.

It’s those cooking traditions that inspired Perez to go to culinary school and start his career as a chef for various restaurants across the Vegas valley. In 2010, he got the call to go work as a chef at Border Grill at Mandalay Bay, but the offer actually turned into a manager position of the Mexican eatery created by celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.

After four years, Perez left to manage other restaurants in the city, and it was during that time that he developed a passion for managing restaurants instead of cooking in them. Almost three years ago, Perez got an offer to come back to Border Grill as the general manager, and that’s where he’s been working since.

“It was not only a homecoming with Border Grill but Mary Sue and Susan hold a very special place in my heart for what they do,” Perez says.

While he loves hosting a great time for his guests, Perez still gets to exercise his creative side. “I love food and I love to create,” he says. “And now I’m using my creativity more on the cocktail side.” Already a certified cicerone and currently pursuing his tequila certification, Perez has helped create a dozen new cocktails for the Border Grill bar program. He’s also responsible for expanding the Border Grill brand by helping build new outposts inside Allegiant Stadium and the Las Vegas Ballpark.

Does Perez ever plan on going back in the kitchen? “I cook at home all the time—that I love to do. But managing this restaurant, I’ve worked my entire career to get to this position. This was the end goal. I love being on the floor and being in tune with my guests—welcoming them to my restaurant.”

Guajillo Renegade

Guajillo Renegade

Libation: Guajillo Renegade

Perez recently created Border Grill’s newest specialty cocktail, the Guajillo Renegade, made with Grey Goose vodka—which he infused with guajillo and chipotle chilis—strawberry shrub and housemade lemonade. It’s topped with ginger beer. With a slight spice and refreshing sweetness, it’ll be near impossible to order just one of this delicious end-of-summer sip.

Benefit: The unlimited Border Grill brunch menu isn’t currently available, but some favorite dishes can still be ordered.

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