Following a conversation with his father, Francis Paniego decided to lead a separate restaurant as part of Echaurren. In 2002, he opened the gastronomic restaurant El Portal de Echaurren. He knew it would be a challenge, given its location in a small town that is not a provincial capital. Since the restaurant opened, its front-of-house and wine cellar have been run by José Félix Paniego who, after spending a few years away from the family business, returned to take part in the project led by his brother.
The bet in a small town of only 2,000 inhabitants was not easy, but today it presumes to have been the first restaurant in the history of La Rioja to get a Michelin star. In November 2012, Francis got the prestigious National Gastronomy Award for the Best Chef in 25 years after his mother, and in November 2013, he obtained the second Michelin star for this restaurant.