Chef Roberto Cortez blends the art of cooking and creative dining
Over his 18-year career, Roberto Cortez has had the honor of being personal chef to Microsoft’s Paul Allen and celebrities including Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, and Eddie Murphy. He was also tapped to create a birthday cake for Lady Gaga.
Cortez was classically trained in France at l’École Lenôtre, the Ritz Hotel’s l’Ecole de Escoffier, Bellouet Conseil, Le Cordon Bleu, and L’ Amandiers Ecole de Soleil. His studies also took him to Italy, Canada, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Spain for a seminar with Albert Adrià at Chocovic.
Cooking for the elite is a wonderful opportunity, but Cortez wanted to explore dining as artists do as they create a masterpiece. As Cortez traveled the globe be began to meet many different types of artisans including sculptors, woodworkers, glassblowers, and cutlery designers. Seeing the results of these many tradesman, he decided to create an interactive dining experience that blends his culinary education with his passion for artistry. Out of this vision, he formed CR8, which started out as a pop-up series, became an instant and most sought after dining experience.
Taste + Design = Movement
Cortez’s CR8 dining installations occur only a few times a year due to the amount of time it takes to produce the experience. Working with local artists, Cortez develops his experiences based on a number of inspirations including music, lighting, culture, and local business such as a florist or photographer. No two dinners are the same and orchestrated with complex, intriguing, and unexpected elements intertwined into an 8-course menu.
“What occurs when changes happen to the order and expectations of what we were taught as to be normal? We now have a blank canvas unto which we can paint new experiences to call our own, said Roberto Cortez. “With the factors of location, ambiance, food and taste alterations along with new tools from the design world, it speaks of a new direction in dining. An exploration in which creativity leads the flow of what is to happen and not what is normal and expected.”
Searching for Edible Bliss
Cortez explains the development and the guest experience as an event that a person needs to be pulled way or given the permission to step out of their comfort area to explore what is raw and flavorful.
He says, “There are two common denominators that impact and connect every single one of us; emotions and food. We feel emotions at every given moment and we all need to eat. As countless emotions run through us each day - each have its own color, description and flavor. Although we are fully unaware how this fully binds us.”
Guests who have participated in a CR8 experience find it to be an emotional experience. You are not dining at a posh gourmet establishment. In fact, you are engrossed in an experience that plays on human emotion mixed with food and drink.
The surrounding area and table is transformed into a scene that you would never imagine a space where you would be consuming food. This setting plays a role in changing the guest’s attitude and mind state. Then the combination of the unique food, the steps in which you are directed to consume and the utensils that go from common to obscure heighten one’s palate to ensure flavors, textures and aromas are explored.
“Our brain is thought to be divided into 2 very different hemispheres. The left side is known for its logic and the right side is known for its creativity. Recreating the actual idea of how it works, creating a dish that expresses both sides at the same time. In this process we taste what the left side thinks and the right side feels,” says Cortez.