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Just a month after opening Mio, a $2 million venture in which he was both chef and partner, JohnPaul Damato has left the midtown restaurant to rejoin José AndrésTHINKfoodGROUP. In January, Damato left his post as executive chef for all three of Andrés’ Jaleo operations to start Mio, an American eatery “with global influences.”

“Opening a restaurant [was] fun for me. I love doing it. I love putting together staff. I love putting together people…and I love cooking every day, which I’ll be doing every day anyhow with José,” Damato says. “It’s just more of a personal thing for me. It made more sense for me and my family just to work with José again.”

In his new role as executive chef of special projects with THINKfoodGROUP, Damato will work with a team, including Ruben Garcia and Jorge Chicas, to develop recipes for Andrés’ upcoming projects, including his TV show Made in Spain and its companion cookbook. Damato starts his new job on Monday.

“We’ve got recipes galore we’ve got to get done,” says Ann McCarthy, director of integrated marketing for THINKfoodGROUP. “I think that JohnPaul’s long relationship with José, and their close relationship—he’s sort of an excellent person to help us execute a lot of José’s vision. It’s a great chance to bring him back into the fold.”

In the meantime, former Café Atlantico GM Manuel Iguina, the lead partner at Mio, says Damato left the restaurant in good shape. Damato hired and developed a talented kitchen staff, Iguina says, including sous chef Ryan Wheeler, who is one of several people Iguina is considering for Damato’s former position.

Photograph by Darrow Montgomery