Wedged happily into a corner of the kitchen of Garde East restaurant last rainy Friday, I tried to stay out of the way of the cooks getting ready for service. One was grilling spring onions, another was portioning black garlic sauce. Someone was making Gochujang aioli. But I couldn’t help myself; I had to lean in, over the expediting station, to watch what chef Carlos Montoya was doing. In theory, he was simply arranging some food on a plate; but to me it looked like nothing less than painting on an increasingly beautiful canvas. I’d only just met Carlos, but I knew how highly regarded he (and his food) were while he was executive chef at The Sweet Life the past few years. And already I liked his warm, easygoing nature.

Here I was chattering away to him, asking him a million questions, and he was patiently and graciously answering each one, all while plating a dish of sea bass crudo with gazpacho sauce and being photographed at the same time.

Pausing for a moment to slice a few cucamelons, he handed a piece to me and to the photographer to try. My brain was still stuck back on Gochujang, trying to remember what the heck it was and hoping to ask, when already there was something new and tantalizing in front of me. Being in the kitchen with Carlos was proving to be like one of your best days at culinary school, where you learn so much your head wants to explode. “What’s a cucamelon?” I blurted out, though he had already moved on to the tomato water gel.

Turns out cucamelons (and I just saw some at the Ag Fair, so somebody is growing them here) are the fruit of a vine in the cucurbit family, native to Mexico. They taste a bit like a cucumber squeezed with lime, and they look for all the world like mini watermelons. While Carlos was explaining this, a cook came over to show me a container of Gochujang, which (I then finally remembered) is Korean chile paste.

Then the cook introduced himself. I had to laugh — this wasn’t a cook, it was chef Robert Sisca, executive chef of the G Hospitality group, the man who had hired Carlos Montoya this spring to be chef de cuisine at Garde East, the group’s first venture outside of Providence, R.I. (opened last year in the former Blue Canoe spot). Well-known in the Northeast, Robert was the founding chef of the popular Bistro du Midi in Boston, after earning his stripes as sous chef at New York’s Le Bernadin. Robert knows his fish. Knows the restaurant business. And knows talent when he sees it.

Jeanna Shepard

When we finally extracted Carlos from the kitchen, I learned how he and Robert had met this spring, how their partnership at Garde East has blossomed, and how they’ve become friends. (They both have small children: Carlos and his partner Fallon Aiello have a daughter, Everly Luz, who is 7 and going into second grade at the Charter School, and a son, Joachin Sol, who is 5 and in his second year at Plum Hill. Robert and his wife Bree have twin boys, Hunter and Jameson, and live in Cranston, R.I.)

But most exciting, I learned what Carlos had cooked for Robert to get this job. (And of course, in typical Vineyard fashion, because Carlos was without a kitchen at the time, Artcliff owner Gina Stanley offered hers for him to prepare the tasting.) What he cooked says it all:

1. Tuna carpaccio with pickled cucumbers, miso caramel, cilantro, and handmade seaweed crackers.

2. Handmade toasted-farro garganelli, braised Grey Barn goat ragu, pomegranate gremolata, minted pea puree.

3. A dish of seared scallops and poached lobster with potato gnocchi and roasted Brussels sprouts, slow-roasted tomato fondu, and lobster-citrus sabayon.

He got me with the miso caramel, but I had no doubt the whole tasting was delicious. Because I had just taken my first taste of the sea bass crudo.

Jeanna Shepard

“I wanted to make this for you,” Carlos said, “because people can do this at home — all you need is a blender. And also, because it’s a good example of how Robert and I work together. We had these leftover marinated tomatoes one day and I said, let’s puree them and make a gazpacho sauce. And he said, let’s put it with striper, and I said let’s add some olives . . . and it went like that.”

While Robert has shuttled back and forth this summer between Rhode Island and the Vineyard, Carlos, who has lived mostly full-time on the Vineyard since Scott Ehrlich hired him at Sweet Life in 2008, will venture to Providence off and on this winter to help with a new project the G group is launching.

After a few bites of the crudo dish — which tasted like the essence of summer — I had to know where the source of this passion came from, why Carlos clearly enjoys cooking so much. (He is 36 now, and has been doing it for 18 years.)

“What I enjoy most is the freedom to express yourself,” he said, repeating again, “Self-expression.”

“But I didn’t realize that until I had been cooking for a few years.” That was the artist talking, the man who was an inch away from following his passion for art into textile design school after high school when he did an about-face and abruptly applied to the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park . . . and got in, despite not having six months of restaurant-cooking experience. We talked about how the same ingredients come together differently in each chef’s hands.

“Yes,” he said. “Each hand is different. But you have to have the hand.”

No doubt Carlos has the talent. He calls his style, “Inspirational. I’m inspired by the seasons, by what’s available, what’s local. And then I bring these other flavors in.”

There’s another reason why this thing I call New Vineyard Cuisine — the product of an amazing confluence of talented chefs and crafters, farmers and fishermen, eaters and cooks, curiosity and creativity that’s happened on the Island in the past decade — is particularly successful in Carlos’s hands. His experience with cooking a wide variety of cuisines is deep, and that experience allows him to be nimble when introducing new ingredients to familiar dishes or when it comes to merging modern gastronomy with classic French techniques.

Carlos, who was born in Columbia but raised in Queens, N.Y., learned to cook rice and chicken (arroz con pollo) and some other staples of traditional Columbian cooking while he was growing up, and worked for a short time in a family friend’s Columbian restaurant before he headed off to the CIA. During school, he interned at New York’s Asia de Cuba, a restaurant focusing on the fusion of Chinese and Cuban cuisine, and after graduating, he knew exactly where he wanted to be: working in one of chef Douglas Rodriguez’s restaurants. Rodriguez, nicknamed the “Godfather of Nuevo Latino” cuisine and certainly the most successful Latino chef on the restaurant scene in the 1990s, had stormed New York first with Patria and then with Chicama, where Carlos went to work and where chef de cuisine Raymond Mahon mentored him.

From there he moved on to one of the finest contemporary American restaurants in the city — Charlie Palmer’s Aureole — where he held the position of saucier. In the next several years, Carlos would also cook Italian food at Fresco and master the vibrant mix of Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian cuisines featured at Sushisamba.

By the time Carlos arrived on the Vineyard — answering Scott Ehrlich’s ad on Craig’s List for a sous chef position at Sweet Life — he was comfortable cooking with ingredients from more than a half-dozen different cuisines. What intrigued him about the Vineyard was a missing piece of the puzzle: being able to cook with ingredients straight from the source, whether the land or the sea. Ten years later, Carlos and his family have settled into the fabric of the Vineyard as if it were meant to be all along. Now the kids are old enough to mess around in the kitchen.

“My daughter’s a foodie,” he said. “She loves fresh pasta and she likes to bake. And my son just won a blue ribbon at the Fair for his blueberry cake (with a little help from mom). I think we have a pastry chef on our hands.”

Best of all, they love Daddy’s cooking. But then again, who doesn’t?

In fact, Carlos’s biggest fans may be Michelle and Barack Obama, who enjoyed his food at Sweet Life and just had dinner at Garde East on Tuesday night. And that’s a story his kids can tell for the rest of their lives.

Recipe for striped bass crudo with heirloom gazpacho sauce.