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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Figueroa, 61, remembered as San Juan gastronomy ‘visionary’

Emilio Figueroa

By The Star Staff

Emilio Figueroa, a renowned San Juan restaurateur who established the famous Parrot Club, Agua Viva, Dragon Fly, Toro Salao, Sofía and Koko restaurants, has passed away. He was 61 years old.

San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero Lugo informed the public about Figueroa’s passing through social media, stirring an outpouring of condolences.

“We join the family and friends of merchant and entrepreneur Emilio Figueroa, upon his departure,” the mayor wrote. “His contribution to the business and gastronomy of San Juan leaves an important mark on everyone. May he rest in peace.”

The cause of Figueroa’s death, on Saturday, is unknown. He had recently moved to New Jersey. He is survived by his wife Gigi Zafero and two daughters.

“No, how sad. Emilio has been an example for all of us Boricuas. An example of business success, an example of what love and friendship are, an example of good people, of [someone who is] loving to their employees and the wealthiest diner, an example of believing in Old San Juan when nobody believed in it,” wrote Alberto Bacó Bagué, a former secretary of economic development and commerce, in social media. “In my book we had to name a square, a worthy sculpture in Old San Juan after him. Rest in peace my friend.”

Figueroa owned Oof! Restaurants, a corporation that opened and offered a diversity of restaurants and businesses. In 2012, he managed seven restaurants, a clothing store and a gym with his company Oof!, including Aguaviva, Toro Salao, Parrot Club, Dragonfly, Koco, Piña Colada Shop and a vegetarian corner called Tanamá, as well as Oof Catering.

Through SOFO, the South Fortaleza Culinary district, as he called it, more than 40 San Juan restaurants came together to hold a gastronomic festival.

Figueroa’s experience as a gastronomy expert began with Olivier Mason, manager of the Four Seasons, from Egypt; Barry Lewin, vice president of Blackstone Group; and Hugh Andrews, owner of La Concha and the Vanderbilt.

Gretchen Sierra Zorita, the associate director for Puerto Rico and the territories in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, described Figueroa as a “friend, entrepreneur, visionary and an example to follow.”

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