Cacao Imbue Inspires

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Cacao Imbue from Roberto Cortez on Vimeo.

Early last year, I was fortunate enough to taste the new chocolate made by Amedei in Tuscany.  It’s called Blanco de Criollo. Right away I understood the complexity that a chocolate can have and I realized I wanted to create a special dish that brought out it’s beautiful characteristics.

The concept of “Imbue” is saturate, infuse, permeate or impregnate with moisture, colors, feelings, etc. This was an incredible description of the journey I would take to and endless lengths I would travel to portray this cacao in a new manner. I served this dessert at my last CR8 in Seattle called Liquid Forms. I had worked on the dessert intensely and even then I ran into problems. I had ordered 2 special ingredients for the dessert and it never arrived in time. The final desert was tasty, but after, I knew It wasn’t finished.

Amedei had approached me and asked to make a video of the dessert. I said I would. I began to imagine moving pictures showing and describing my thought process of how I came up with this dish. After months and months of working with the concept, it still wasn’t finished or what I wanted. One morning I realized that I was stuck because I was trying to portray the dish in a plated dessert style. I needed to create a new concept of eating a dish. Then it just finished itself once I realized this. The diner needs to be set into a frame of mind and body by the first scent they come across. After, the chocolate needs to be tasted and thereafter, each ingredient and preparation I created needs to be tasted one at a time. This allows the various shades of intricacies of the chocolate to come to the forefront with each new taste that supports the chocolate.

After 6 months of filming is 3 different states, It was done. Thank you Amedei for the wonderful chocolate and helping me to push myself to a new level of eating and dining awareness.

Liquid Forms

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CR8 Liquid Forms Dining Room wb

CR8 Liquid Forms

CR8 Liquid Entrance wb

This is the CR8 concept I have been wanting to do for over 5 years. My fascination with liquid as a flavor catalyst constantly reminded me of a direction that I could explore in great detail. Using vapor, solid and liquid as conceptual starting points and incorporating them their properties to create a dinner scenario took me many years.

Here is an excerpt from my notes: “When it comes to taste, liquid acts differently on the palate than solid food. Chewing food becomes a process by which flavors are expelled and discovered in stages as they are released by the teeth. Liquids immediately cover the entire tongue, which in turn activates all taste buds and it’s crevices giving instantaneous flavor delivery. This seems to be a more powerful way to taste as it requires less use of facial muscles, And with this, additional brain activity which stays in a state of “waiting” to see what the food tastes like. This also brings in a subconscious element of expectation and wonder, which deters from the purity of taste and experiencing flavor”.            Roberto Cortez

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The dining scenario was to rest on a virtual magenta pool of light created by an incredible designer named Avelino Sotelo!

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The beautifully designed table by Rob Hendrickson of One Works Seattle never ceases to amaze.

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The dining room consisted of a blue cloud of light above the diners by Yuri Kinoshita.

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Diners in the dark.

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This CR8 was additionally exceptional for 2 reasons. One, a collaboration with the renown cocktail specialist, Matthew Biancaniello. What better person to explore aqueous dining possibilities than him! We previously did a collaboration together under the flag of CR8 The Art Of in Los Angeles a few years ago. I quickly realized then, that Matt and I have a very similar perspective on dining. The endless possibilities where taste can go is road we both want to travel.

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The Team was Yuri Kinoshita, Matthew Biancaniello, Me, Avelino Sotelo and Rob Hendrickson.

Space Before wb

We were incredibly fortunate to find and incredible space at  1461 Elliott Ave. W. (And it is for lease!).  Becky will be happy to take care of you! 206-284-7004.

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Avelino Sotelo, an incredibly talented human!

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Toshi Asai takes care of every detail.

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Nicholas Furrow waits his turn in the many tasks needed to activate the event. He was great, thanks Nick!

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I was fortunate to have Hiro Tawara, a brilliant Japanese Kaiseki Chef, help in the kitchen as well as any other job needed. Thanks Hiro!

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Matt preparing the opening cocktail, Stinging nettle and Cuban oregano infused gin with satsuma and dill. All in a glass spoon designed by London’s Andreas Fabian.

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Sapling: Golden Char Caviar, PX sherry hen egg sabayon, black oak maple, pecan oil, tangerine lace, crumbled hen yolk

Incredible Golden Char Caviar from Mikuni Wild Harvest

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Horseradish wb

Cocktail for Sapling: Gin, cucumber, beet and horseradish

Truffle Tamal wb

Black Truffle Tamal

Maize wb

Maize: Black truffle tamal, charcoal, Incan corn mole, sweet canela, red amaranth, red strawberry popcorn

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Red Strawberry Popcorn wb

For the past year I have been fascinated with popcorn and have been incorporating it in my cuisine in many forms. I eagerly searched the country for the best popcorn in America. I found it! Red Strawberry Popcorn from Jacks Popcorn. I developed a relationship with Wayne Schandelmeier and now I will only use this incredible ruby jewel for cooking and especially eating!

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Cocktail for Maize: Wild juniper infused Mezcal, Krogstad Aquavit, fresh kiwi and wild mustard flowers

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Vaporious: Ember beets, wild juniper, foie gras, sunchoke cream, akamiso, blood orange, scallions, pomegranate

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Bergamot Yuzu wb

Cocktail for Vaporious: Bergamot and Yuzu infused tequila, guava infused tequila , bergamot juice and dehydrated bergamot peel with home made caramel on top

Monsoon wb

Monsoon: Crab Tonkotsu, roots, soft tofu, liquid nahm prik pao, cucumber noodles, hibiscus daikon, black sesame

*The base of the broth was collected rain water that never touched the ground. It took 3 months. The dish was also inspired by my favorite Liquid Artist named Shinichi Maruyama. He is incredible!

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Surinam Cherry wb

Cocktail for Monsoon: Sage and Surinam cherry infused gin, wild horehound infused maraschino liqueur, lemon and green chartreuse with dehydrated banana flowers on top

Terre Fondu wb

Terre Fondu: Fermented Japanese rice, date poultry bouillon, coffee pork jowl butter, Kishibori shoyu, shallot pickled in Nordic beer

*I used the wonderful Tamaki Haiga Mai Rice from ChefShop.

Terre Fondu Shallots web

The concept was Melting, the diners were to take the mini blow torch they were given and actively melt their own butter before eating. Thus, they interacted and finished the concept.

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Cocktail for Terre Fondu: Gin, 25 year old balsamic, strawberries with a bergamot and Tahitian vanilla infused saint Germain foam

Brisket Float wb

Succulent was the concept and it was called Wetlands. It manifested into a 2 part dish. I incorporated the incredible meat from BB Ranch Seattle for ultra rich flavor.

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Brisket Float: Brisket syrup, West Texas mesquite smoked cream, chile salt, preserved smoked tomato bbq puree, caramelized brussel sprouts, grain mustard, dill oil, arugula blossoms

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Wild Toyon2 wb

Cocktail for the Brisket Float: Wild toyon berry infused Pisco, kaffir lime, egg whites with rosemary flowers on top

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Brisket in Elderberry juices, douglas fir, yogurt, parsnip, pumpkin greens

White Fir wb

Cocktail for Elderberry Brisket: Wild white fir infused tequila, pine sap infused saint Germain, cinnamon infused wild flower honey, fresh turmeric and persimmon juice

Frostbite wb

Frostbite: Salted brazil nut panna cotta, coconut cream, kaffir leaf, sour apple, cinnamon toast crepes

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Benedictine Almond wb

Cocktail for Frostbite: Benedictine, roasted almond oil, lemon and cacao nibs

Amedei Blanco10 wb

Amedei Blanco De Criollo 70% Chocolate.

Peru’ where Cecilia discovered and selected rare cocoa form the most remote plantations to create our new dark chocolate, the result of years of experience and research throughout the world and the final workmanship performed in our beloved Tuscany. An unforgettable experience.

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Cacao Imbue: Amedei Blanco de Criollo70% Chocolate, red plums & beets, licorice, dandelion root, wild cherry bark, Duchilly hazelnut oil

*There was a crucial ingredient missing from this dessert. I will revisit this sucrose expression soon and update with the absolute final dessert!

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Cocktail for Cacao Imbue: Cynar, cassis, espresso with a blood orange air

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Matt loving the prep..

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My good friend Christoph Milz of Pressmeister Oils   introduced me to his incredible nut and seed oils done in the artisan old world style. One taste and I was hooked! I was happy to incorporate them into my liquid conceptual dishes.


miele  Reason number two: Miele

One of the best appliance companies in the world was part of CR8 Liquid Forms success. I was familiar with Miele while in Singapore at 2am lab.

Janice Wong spoke highly of them and I knew that we could do something wonderful together in America.

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The 30” Induction M Touch Range.  The best I have ever cooked with. The Miele range is the most precise I have ever used. The heat commands are immediate and the control panel is incredibly fluid and helpful!

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Tower of brilliance in White

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Kristin Ruohonen, a wonderful representative for Miele was crucial to making every step of this union possible. Thank you Kristin

I look forward to a long, creative and edible relationship with Miele, I can’t thank the entire team around the globe enough. I am incredibly honored to have used their excellence. Liquid Forms would not have happened without them!

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Kitchen Crew wb

Sous Chef Ken Lee and Andrew Pierce, couldn’t of done it without you guys! Grateful

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Some of the kitchen crew: Max George, Wyatt Campbell, Ken Lee, Me, Andrew Pierce, Issac Rivera, Hiro Tawara

CR8 Liquid Forms was my most satisfying concept and event. I am looking forward to another collaboration with Matthew Biancaniello this summer. Stay tuned!


Arcanum Unlocked

Final Dining Roomsg

CR8 Entrancesg

This concept starts with it’s definition; A deep secret, mystery or knowledge known only to a selected few. There were things that I personally found very curious or baffling and each one resonated a chord of mystery within myself. So much so, that Arcanum needed a voice through CR8. I noticed a difference in my myself with this CR8. I needed to approach and express the concepts differently. I wanted to go deeper in creativity and food and flavor connections. This took me 4 months to finish 8 concepts. I knew this one would be unique.

Final Dining Roomsg

The secret lair in dining form.

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Joy Rondello, the mastermind of this web of mysterious form. An environment to nurture and emphasis the encased diner during the courses of cryptic experiences.

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New creations by Yuri Kinoshita; incredibly rare fabrics from Japan woven beyond precision; released from her mind, soul and touch.

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Rob Hendrickson; making adjustments to an ever evolving dining table.  It is now complete and exercising strength and brilliance.

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Hering Berlin; The blank canvas in porcelain form acting as the ultimate stage for a chef to engage and release edible bliss.

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Andreas Fabian; spoon designer extraordinaire.

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Jenya designs with their beautiful box invitations sent out to people attending.

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The guests arrive.

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Sarah Dooley, my right hand girl through the entire event. Amazing attention to detail.

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A key factor in using the beautiful and unorthodox pieces that I have; is too explore its functions in ways of bringing new sensations to the diner.  With this course called “Elixir Ceremony”, The spoon starts in an upright position starting the ceremony.

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Shireen hand caring for every detail.

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This concept called “Elixir Ceremony” was inspired by the secrets of the people that live in the Wudan Mountains. They say they have secrets to many things including an Elixir that creates immortality.

This dish is composed of Fermented artichoke milk, black truffle elixir, shiromiso corn waffle, radish flowers

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Liquid as black as night.

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The first step, is to pour in the black truffle elixir and using the handle, swirl it in to mend with the fermented artichoke milk.

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Jason Price, drinking the ceremony.


La Jeune Martyre painted by Paul Delaroche in 1855. The last painting he ever did less than a year before he died. It completely enchants me each time I stare at it in the Louvre.  The great mystery; No one will ever know who this woman is and what happened to her. I felt compelled to pay homage to her.

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La Jeune Martyre: Albacore belly, rose petal textural, wild scallion root, gelee de jambon, puffed einkorn, candied lemon peel

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Kintsugi: The ancient art of restoring broken bowls, art, etc by piecing it back together with various elements such as gold. Even though the techniques for this were secret for centuries, what struck me as incredible is the concept of something being more beautiful for being broken. So, I decided to take a piece of wood and break it into 4 pieces. Putting it back together, I had 4 components; wood, smoke, fire, ash. This was the building block vision for this dish.

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Kintsugi: Alderwood cream, smoked chicken dashi, fire glazed cherry tomatoes, leek ash egg yolk, and pine oil leaves

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Pouring smoked chicken dashi from beautiful porcelain.


Forbidden: Inspired by the mystery of one of the greatest stories of all time; Adam and Eve. Scholars and theologians have argued about this for centuries. From an apple to a pomegranate, quince and even a grape. I chose the other speculated fruit; the fig. This mystery evolved into other forbidden ingredients and poetically played out in my mind and palate with great pleasure.

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Forbidden: Foie gras egg, fig yolk, burnt liquid alliums, pickled young ginger, hibiscus leaves and tonka bean.

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The foie gras egg cut revealing soft fig.

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To enhance the dish, Seeded Brioche en Secret, made with an array of ancient grains like spelt, kamut, millet and hard winter wheat.

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Each diner is served their own brioche and stands to hover over it as it is opened to capture it’s full aroma.

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Frequency; If you want to find the secrets of the universe: think in terms of Energy, Frequency, and Vibration-Nikola Tesla

This is one of the universe most incredible mysteries. How does it work and is it true? The impact of this knowledge has had incredible insight on me personally. With the power of binary beats (The sound waves that carry the frequencies) I have seen their effects.

528hz (the frequency of the earth, human DNA, and love), 126.22 The Sun (they call the perfect frequency). Dr. Masaru Emoto has proved that just with our different thought vibrations we can alter the energy of water just by writing words on the glass holding the water. I have changed the frequency of the ingredients in this course, using the 2 frequencies above. Thus impacting the diner on a vibrational level, and hopefully happier!

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Frequency: Complex maroon, coffee, carnaroli rice, licorice, chanterelles

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In The Name Of: An homage to the secret recipes of the great monks of Europe and Nuns of Mexico. After great thought, I landed on creating a mole, so I created a sauce and promise to never reveal the secret, just as they do.

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In The Name Of: Hazelnut squash blossom mole, buttermilk gel, young hen confit, carrot


Dragon Lady, a concept derived from a story I read about a woman named Madame Nhu. The first lady of Vietnam around the time of the Vietnam War. What struck me, was she was apparently the cause of the entire war. Kennedy said “That goddamn bitch”,  “She’s responsible … that bitch stuck her nose in and boiled up the whole situation down there. “Nicknamed “the Dragon Lady,” she remains one of the most memorable, most demonized, and most mysterious figures of the entire Vietnam War period. Very bold, strong, feminine, and glamorous. All with a Vietnamese flair. She grew up speaking and writing in French, so I will add a French elegance to the dish as well.

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Dragon Lady, BB Ranch Short Rib in the Vietnamese style, whipped Jasmine flowers, sake cured caviar, coconut, charred radish, pickled cucumber

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Close your eyes and taste the creamy jasmine flowers.

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It was an honor to collaborate with one of the best tea companies in the world called Tea Vert. They recently were asked to be part of the Madrid Fusion and were honored with a design award for their uniqueness.  Working one on one with Slava Simontov, we chose a tea presentation and amazing Oolong tea to accompany this dish.


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My friend Chelsey Walker Watson of Slate Coffee pulled an espresso for me and said, you need to taste this. It was pulled with Sidamo Ethiopian coffee and it’s flavor profile was gorgeous. The flavors stayed with me for a few days and I began to study that coffee region. I stumbled upon a legend of the origin of coffee, and it was from the same area. The story of Kaldi, the goatherd that noticed his goats acting strangely when they ate these red berries from a bush.  The rest is history. I wanted to create a dessert that mimicked the various smells and tastes I experienced in this Sidamo espresso. Each person was pulled the same Sidamo espresso by Sarah Dooley, to ensure a perfect experience with the sucrose dish.

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Kaldi: Whipped popcorn, compressed apricot gelee, sudachi caramel, strawberry textures, popcorn powder, lemon mint

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The end of the experience winds down.

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I was incredibly happy with CR8 Arcanum, so much that I would call it the most creative fun I have ever had in a dining expression.

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Most grateful to Ken Lee, sous chef and assistant through it all. Couldn’t have done it without you my friend!

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Thanks to Tyler Gray for his amazing products from Mikuni Wild Harvest


Special thanks to Eliza from ChefShop , only the best products in Seattle!

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Mallet Kitchen, what a great kitchen and event space! I will be there again!

The next concept is already in the works and wait and see who I will be collaborating with on this one! Stay tuned



UnNatural Seattle

UnNatural Seattle

A slight anxiety arises as I commit to this new CR8. This is my first CR8 Dining Installation since I left Los Angeles last year.  I live in a new city, Seattle, and starting all over again comes with the territory.  So here we go…

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 The Concept: UnNatural

I started noticing things that I was attracted to in the natural world were elements inconsistent with natural law. A deviation from what was normal, which was bringing out curiosity and beauty where I was not expecting it. This in turn became a conundrum of the senses. Yet to embrace these unorthodox states is to expand expectation and drift into an alternative state of appreciation.

 The UnNatural Dining Environ:

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UnNatural Setting

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Table Settingsg

The Designers:

It was important to me to find a group of designers in Seattle.  Now that Seattle is home to CR8, I want to be as local as possible whenever possible.

Yuri PortraitsYuri Kinoshita,  Easily Seattle’s most exciting lighting designer works closely with the team to make a beautiful lighting expression.


Rob Portraits
Rob Hendrickson of OneWorks custom designed this incredible dining table just for the event. His creativity with wood, glass, steel and iron are evident.

Robs table endsg                     The final masterpiece.

Joy PortraitsJoy Rondello Using her incredible interior design vision, we were able to create a dining scenario that we felt expressed our concept of UnNatural.

UnNatural Setting DaybwsgThe dining scene with finishing touches.

Stefanie HeringStefanie Hering and Hering Berlin: Hering makes the most beautiful porcelain i’ve ever seen.  It’s the perfect artistic platform for me to catapult my cuisine into beautiful realms.  Thank you Hering!

AndreasAndreas Fabian  No one knows spoons like Andreas Fabian.  His designs and extensive research on dining continue to contribute new experiences for CR8.

KB CutlerysgKatja Bremkamp One of the world’s best cutlery designers!

roberto menusgGetting organized. Photo by Tim Mar

Organization UnNatural A sea of design wonders and my ever so necessary PolyScience Circulator.

The UnNatural Dishes:

L'eau d'orange vertesg

I discovered a bottle of shampoo made by Hermes.  According to the bottle, it is made from the water of a green orange, basically an unripe orange. It is also the scent of one of their elusive perfumes. I was curious and believed that it probably didn’t smell very good.  I opened the bottle and to my surprise, it was incredible. For weeks I thought of why they would take an unripe fruit, which is usually discarded or thought of as imperfect, and make it into something precious.  I was inspired to create a dish based on this scent and approach to the their UnNatural expression.

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The dish is called Fleur D’Hermes: Beet panna cotta, green orange perfume, wood yogurt, pickled mustard seeds, bee pollen, beet glass.

The guests are given their plates, then a bouquet of Calla Lilies is placed in the center of the table. To their surprise, they were instructed to take a flower from it, and pour their edible green orange perfume onto their plates to complete the dish.  The dish was sweetened completely with honey from killer bees.

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Is this Wonderland?: Uni veloute, lime leaf, avocado tartare,  steelhead sake caviar, jalapeno snow, chive oil, pickled muscat grapes

I had been thinking of these flavors before in context of a salad. I sat down to watch The Matrix and by the end of the movie I had finalized this dish. Why is it that one person looks at life and see’s nothing more than a series of boring and mundane acts that make up a day.  Yet another person can see a different world looking through the same 2 eyes.  Is it UnNatural to choose our own truth?Wonderland2sg



Zeal 8:Smoked ember guanciale, barley & seaweed consomme gelee, liquid sunchoke, douglas fir brioche

Upon reading a story on the 7 deadly sins, there was talk of an 8th sin known which concerned passion.  It spoke of removing this feeling from our lives and hearts to truly spiritually advance.  I immediately realized how this was the most UnNatural feeling for me to not have.  The flavor of the guanciale alone made me ooze with passion.


Spirit of tea macrosg

The Spirit of Tea: Homemade Tofu Misozuke, Assam tea dashi bouillon, pickled radish, apple, ginger, Hibiscus flowers, scallion flowers, Golden Yunnan crisp

The Japanese and India have for many centuries consumed tea.  Their disciplines lead them to even have ceremonies just to honor it’s flavor and meaning.   Tea is to be appreciated and enjoyed alone to appreciate the leaves in it’s simplicity and perfection.  CR8 will explore it’s own UnNatural combination of several teas in one dish.

I tasted Tofu Misozuke in Singapore while doing a guest chef stint at 2am lab with Janice Wong and Jonathan Sparber.  It was an unforgettable flavor.  It is currently not available in the states, so I took on the 2 month task of making my own for this event.

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Spirit of tea8sg

Brandon GeishasgRight in the middle of the dinner, a special diversion manifested.

I had tasted a rare and special coffee called Geisha with Edwin Martinez of Onyx Coffee Bar. I found it to be so wonderful I created a dish to be paired with it.  So we had Brandon Paul Weaver of Slate Coffee Roasters brew it table-side whilst describing it’s preciousness and flavor profiles. Under the cloak of UnNatural dining, we stopped all wine flowing and intervened with Geisha Coffee. Thanks for the custom roasting Seth!


The Geisha Project: Peking style trumpet royale mushrooms,  pear, nutmeg, chicken skin, lemongrass carnaroli risotto. Served with a glass spoon of Geisha Coffee.


Death of Czar: BB Ranch pork cheek, black truffle, cinnamon oil, ash, umami caramel lacquered parsnip, pork heart, arugula blossoms

Is it UnNatural to appreciate the gift of death?  To holistically embrace a living creature and recognize the importance of it’s flesh and parts to feed and nurture others.  With this comes great responsibility and the pig was butchered especially for this dish.

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UnNatural czar setupsgDetailing the Czar trays.

Andreas GhostspoonsgPouring a special blend of a rooibos tea mixture with rare mountain rose apple in ghostspoons.


Synthetic Chihuly:Coconut, rooibos & rose petal, lemongrass buttermilk,  frozen sake (in a faux flower glass bowl)

Synthetic; An element made by synthesis or artificially made to imitate a natural product.  The work of Dale Chihuly in it’s UnNatural forms and contours magnify the impossible and take form in the most fragile of states. This is my edible inspiration.

Chihuly1sgThe coconut cream was made to mimic rubber in texture.

Chihuly Sake Bowlsg

Geisha Sake Bowl3sgAn ice flower bowl was created by Jenya designs to house the frozen sake that each diner spooned onto their plates.


UnGaudi: Chile ancho escabeche, sweet goatcheese, IPA sabayon, Noble maple syrup, tapioca

Antoni Gaudí was an architect born in 1852 in Catalonia, Spain.  His works were influenced by Oriental, Persian, Indian and even Mayan cultures.  He is one of the few people who’s work has no time frame.  To see his work now, you would not know if it was 200 years old or 1,400 years from the future.  One of the rarest UnNatural gifts is to be able to transcend one’s work in a context void of time.

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roberto explanationsgExplaining details of the dish about to be presented.                                                Photo by Tim Mar

UnNatural MenuThe UnNatural Menu is handed out to the guests at the end of the dinner.  The only way to read it is to hold it up to a mirror.

The Artisans and Beyond:

Mikuni TylerWorking closely with Tyler Gray of Mikuni Wild Harvest to acquire rare, specific and wonderful ingredients for each course. His suggestions and knowledge helped me to pinpoint the perfect flavors. One of the most important companies for every chef who needs the absolute best items and personal attention!

Tyler photo by Grant Harder.

William Lockersg William Von Scheneidau of BB Ranch in Seattle for his highly prized pork.  Building a wonderful relationship with this man and we will doing things together in the future!

*Special thanks to Eliza and ChefShop in Seattle for providing some of the best ingredients from around the world!

UnNatural Diners HappysgThat’s exactly what every chef wants to see.


UnNatural IsaacSpecial thanks to Chef Isaac Rivera for being my right hand man!  It would not have been possible to have such a fluid and fun experience without you!  Your the best!


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Thanks to Shana Lynn Chester, Andrew Pierce, Jessica Vouk, Marianna Stepniewski, and Ken Lee for all your involvement and help.  I look forward to doing it again next time.

rob's table endsgAfter the storm.

A big thank you for the beautiful space at Bandia Rua, it was the perfect canvas to which I could paint my vision.

A very grateful thanks to Mataio and Jessica Gillis of Ciao Thyme, thanks for the help.

CR8 UnNatural proved to be a spectacular experience for me and everyone involved. I have made some wonderful new connections in the food, art, and design world and look forward to what the next CR8 will be.


The Importance of Spain

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spain post

Spain has been an extreme source of inspiration and admiration to me for the last 15 years.  Not necessarily because of Ferran Adria and the innovative work of El Bulli, but much much more.

Their forward and boundless thinking seems to lead this wonderful country ahead of many others in many forms of food, horticulture, art, design, and architecture.

Architecture, design and the minds behind their conceptual creations have always pushed me to think deeper and be more innovative.  Flavor as function and purpose of dining movements are important lessons I have learned from them.

So when Luis and the people of So Good magazine approached me to be in one of their issues, I was quite surprised.  I had followed them for several years, as some of the worlds top chefs in sweet and savory cuisine highlight some of their dishes, recipes and ideas.   I don’t work or have a restaurant so why would I be asked to occupy this gorgeous publication?  They had been following my dining group CR8 and loved my vision of dining. I enthusiastically answered yes and what was to follow surprised me even more.

photo-mood-117-valencia-spain-night-santiago-calatrava-photo-2 Santiago Calatrava, Valencia Spain                                                                                                   Photo:photomood

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so good: #9 – January, 2013

After the so good issue was released,  I was approached again by the people at Groupo Vilbo to be in another one of their magazines called Dulcypas 

DulcypasbnrsgDulcypas Number 415

Then again I was asked to feature one of my creations in the upcoming “Chocolate Edition”.

Dulcypas ChocolateDulcypas Number 419: Especial Chocolate Edition

I’m seriously honored to be noticed by the people of Spain. So much as to look at me as someone doing something special, creative and considered out of the box passion.  Where I have always admired them for being the same way.

Sweet Celebration

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Jana Cake2sg

This was one of the most elaborate concepts and ideas I have ever had.  From the initial idea seeming “Undoable”, to coming to the realization that if I can envision it in my head, I can always find a way to manifest it. The project was simple…. I wanted to make a birthday cake for my girlfriend. Not just any cake, but a piece of edible art that was parallel to who she was and what she meant to me. Now the hard part, how do I go about creating and making this cake? This is where I pushed myself to make something magical. Complexity in Simplicity is what I was after, a mirroring of extremes that when engaged simultaneously, have a powerful effect upon the active participant. If successful, she would be very happy.

In addition, the cake was to be featured in the new Dulcypas Magazine from Spain!  So I began.

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Jana Cake 3sg

Flavors: Like with any traditional birthday, one often receives their favorite cake. In this instance, I took several of her favorite sweet flavors and then creatively morphed them into a birthday cake experience just for her.

Caramelized pecan cheesecake mousse

Homemade chocolate infused with cardamom cream

Bisquit de chocolat

Salted mission fig caramel

Dark chocolate paint

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Cake Mold: I don’t like to use the traditional molds available on the market. I have worked with architects and designers in the past to custom design a mold in accordance to the overall concept of the cake. With this cake I sought out the work of Jenya Designs. A design company I discovered in the Northwest with an incredible creative talent for various items. They created the cake mold with a special texture, color and release mechanism for removing the cake.

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Jana cake box2sg

Cake Box: This cake could not be delivered in a paper box. I wanted to have a custom cake box that was fluid, organic and beautiful. Once again, Jenya Designs came through with this gorgeous piece of working art. It was made of various natural elements such as wood, handmade paper, metals and fabrics. We worked on various ideas and then they came to me with an innovative idea for opening the box as well as it’s structure, etc. I love working with people as creative as this!

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Jana Cake box opensg

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making chocolate

Chocolate: I always use Amedei Chocolate, I love their purity and incredible flavors that come from every detail being embraced. But this time was different, I wanted to be as hands on with almost every ingredient that was to be used. So I started with raw cocoa beans and made my own chocolate. From roasting to grinding to blending and infusing with her favorite spice, cardamom. It was a liberating experience.

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Sweeteners: In the past year or so, I have been paying intense attention to chemically altered sweeteners. Not only do they have almost no nutritional value, but they are just empty in flavor and not good for us at all. I expanded my reach and explored the world of sweetness. I used raw organic sugar cane in it’s entirety, raw honey and honeycomb, demerara sugar, maple syrup and other pure sweeteners. This is something I will continue to explore from now on!


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Chocolate Birds Nest, a simple and natural form of decor inspired by the wonderful photography of Amelia Fletcher. Her photography touches on various emotions in her portraits and nature work. I wanted to add a special feel to finalize the cake and with the unexpected inspiration of her work, I was able to deliver the perfect touch. Thanks Amelia!

JC Inside

Form and Function: The idea and construction of the cake, was to be able to taste every flavor, no matter how small or big a piece was cut from any of the 5 pieces. The 5 pieces though separate, still make up one uniform cohesive cake. After all, we are all made up of different personalities, ideas and perspectives, and we still remain as one. This project has taught me to always follow your creativity and most of all, never underestimate the power of giving.

For Jana….

Jana water

*All Photography by Roberto Cortez



Asian Culinary Adventure With 2am:lab

2am parasg

About 5 months ago I was contacted by Jonathan Sparber, the resident chef at 2am:lab in Singapore.  He asked if I was interested in being a guest chef and collaborating on several dining events there.  I was a bit surprised, I had no idea they even knew who I was.  After all, with no restaurant or permanent location, I was unclear to who knew about CR8.

They said they had been following my CR8 dining events, and loved the direction and dining concepts I was putting on and experimenting with.  I, in turn, had been following them for the better part of the last year as they were bringing in food artists and creative chefs where they too emphasized in conceptual dining.

2am:lab is the brain child of Janice Wong, who 5 years earlier opened 2am:dessert bar, a fantasy dessert bar,  where she showcases her incredible sucrose talents and mind blowing dessert interpretations.

I was to come to Singapore, taste the local cuisine and then use local products to create an 8 course tasting menu with them. The idea was extreme and I was inspired by the challenge.  No sending in recipes of some of my prior dishes, I was going in raw.  I suggested we come up with a concept and build a dinner around that.  After several skype meetings, the concept was born.  “Illustrious Magic”, The concept of traveling magicians from the last centuries, who were using their talents in illusion to entertain and amuse the crowd. Researching deep into the elements of magic, ritual, tradition, occult and mysticism.  I found the concept inspiring and I knew it would provide a creative platform for a special dining event.  So the collaboration began with combining styles to create a menu.  This proved to be exciting and very much resembled musicians jamming to make a song.  The music continued….

The towers where 2am:lab resides and the outside entrance to the lab.

Janice Wong, a pastry genius and a woman of many talents!

Jonathan Sparber, an accomplished and creative chef and amazing guy!  It was a pleasure creating dishes together with him.

Foraging in the rain for exotic flowers and herbs

Fruit tasting became a daily thing.

Honbushi, smoked and aged amberjack tuna.  Shavings from heaven………photo by Janice Wong

Filling pouches with edible rocks and filling cauliflower with curry brioche puree before resting in a bath of fried tempura……….photos by Janice Wong

Happiness and Zen in the kitchen……….photos by Janice Wong

All hands on deck and super focused.

Sunset before the guests arrive.

The entrance to the event was laden with eerie candles, and a peculiar arrangement of mannequin hands, they resembled hand movements of a magicians hands during spells and incantations.

Diners were engaged in spells, rituals and obscure directional dining as to complete the magical dining concept……….photos by Janice Wong

Interaction on all levels in action at the table……….photos by Janice Wong

Kingfish going through an elaborate process of curing to be featured in the first course, Sea Garden Spell.

Sea Garden Spell first course and served in a box.

Diners removed the lid and were handed a pouch of edible rocks to shake on top of the course, but not until they made their own private wish.

Sea Garden Spell: Kingfish cured in pomelo, sake and young ginger, jasmine rice cream, garden herb snow, puffed quinoa, pickled hibiscus flowers, young ginger gel.  Accompanying cocktail, cucumber and green tea water, champagne, passionfruit

Ritual: liquid pepper crab, 63C egg yolk, whipped citrus buttermilk, frozen peanut powder, curry leaf, galangal butter, spring onion, spoon made of Indonesian cinnamon bark

Mystical: Honbushi, yellow tail tuna shavings, miso cured egg yolks, soursap, bitter sphere, floral lemongrass oil

A local coffee shop and roaster named Jimmy Monkey, custom roasted 2 blends of coffee to be featured in the next course. (Fyi, they have a Slayer espresso machine and they pull stellar shots!)

Perceptive Illusion: Tofu misozuke noodle, acacia smoked shitake, candied mandarin peel, coffee zinfandel puree, fennel, multi grain crisp

Hallucination: Cauliflower textural, black olive paste, curried brioche puree, tempura, honeycomb

The Offering: The dark side of magic. Conceptually intertwining the element of supernatural magic of bird offerings and using a quail stuffed with it’s own diet and faux blood sauce.  The diners were to remove the black cloth to find the bird in Offering.

………photo by Janice Wong


Shaplessness: Rambutan snow, liquid avocado, aloe vera, honey, crispy banana, ginger flower bubbles, lime caramel

Pineapples with incredible flavor being prepped for the main dessert called Reflection.

Reflection: Dark chocolate textural, burnt pineapple, bamboo charcoal, sesame milk cremeaux, chili sesame prailine, anise greens. Served with a warm chai with vanilla spice butter.

It was served on two separate and separated dish pieces and placed on the dining table.  The diner needing to connect the pieces together for the finale.

The assembly of a chai cocktail………photos by Janice Wong

Special thanks to Janice and Jonathan and everyone at the Lab and the Dessert bar who helped make this event happen!

Intrigued and inspired by my journey to Asia in ways I still don’t understand.  In addition, the flavors of the street food is the best i’ve ever had.  The people I met, I now call them friends and i’m sure I will see them again.  Most importantly, a rare connection that touched my soul and surrounded my senses allowing an exploratory expression of visions, concepts and inspirational processes.  The best gift of all..







Savage Romanticism- Dining Extreme

CR8 Savage Banner

I believe it was about 8 months ago, I randomly saw a short documentary on Alexander McQueen, and his work on display at the Met in N.Y.C.  It only took 3 or 4 minutes to realize this was no ordinary Fashion Designer.  By the end of the video I was literally shaking with inspiration.  Why?  I know almost nothing about making clothes, nor the steps to design or much less make one.  Yet, I noticed details of his work and compositional designs as if I had never seen clothes ever before.  Even further, his creativity and his perception of beauty left a deep imprint within.

I investigated further by watching every interview and documentary, and even purchasing his book.  I had to know what drove him and who he was.  After a few months I started to work on a concept for the next CR8, it didn’t even have a chance, I immediately knew I had to express what I felt and learned from this genius.  The name and concept dripped from my fingers, through the pen, and onto the page.  I even knew how I was going to do it.  During this discovery, what resonated with me was the fact that he always expressed his creativity no matter at what cost or what anyone would think.  Prior, I had several ideas that I thought might be too much or not right for a dining concept.  All of these were now gone.  I no longer had any qualms about holding back what I wanted to do with dining and cuisine.  CR8’s Savage Romanticism was born!

The Genius himself

From Cover to Cover, the unraveling of his impeccable creative mind poured off the pages and absorbed into my every sense driving me deeper within myself, further than I have ever dared to go.

There was a darkness I have always found beautiful and inspiring and now was the time to show this in the design of the dining room and the dishes I was going to create for these dinners.

The entrance to the dining chamber.

Beautiful skull artistry by local Venice artist Cheryl Gazdik.

Expressing the fashion element in some way was a must.  I had the idea of covering the table in a beautiful and dark expression of fashion and photography.  My dear friend Katarzyna Widmanska had the perfect photo, with her “Queen of the Damned”, it graced the dining table and took everyone by surprise.

The final look!

Course One: part one: CEREMONIAL-Liquid 6 mushroom collage, Oloroso sherry, aged sherry, salt smoke

ROMANCE X: Whipped ham, compressed honey pineapple, pickled curry tapioca, leeks, horseradish

Amongst the many diners interactions throughout the dinner, being either with their own dish or someone else’s dish, they were asked to blindfold themselves to remove one sense.  Next, they had to shake two different canisters containing different ingredients.  By the sound and feel, they chose their topping to the course………Photo by Brian Palmer

Photo by Brian Palmer

SOPHISTICATION:  Kabocha Nimono Textural, smoked dashi gelee, parmesan sabayon, shallot

Dining tools consisting of Hering Berlin, Katja Bremkamp, Andreas Fabian designs

MYSTERIOUS: YIN/YANG-Scallop tartare, sudachi peel, frozen avocado, cranberry, dill oil, red quinoa, coconut butter

FORBIDDEN: SECRECY NO. 13, A diner creating his own design with Secrecy No.13 sauce consisting of white corn cob veloute infused with indonesian cinnamon oil………….Photo by Brian Palmer

ADDICTION:  Chocolate Drug 2012

A plethora of wine blankets the surface.

The perfect venue for this event was The Redd Collection.  This boutique wine store with accompanying tasting bar is just extraordinary.  I met with Todd Ziman and Michael Carpenter to discuss a wine collaboration for the event.  Here are a list of wines that made the chef tasting over the 3 nights.  Thanks to the collectors and The Redd Collection for bringing these gems!

NV Henriot Blanc de Blanc
2003 Schramsburg Reserve
1999 Chapoutier Le Meal Blanc
2009 Fontaine Gagnard Batard Montrachet
1998 Joseph Matrot Meursault Charmes
2009 Sine Qua Non “On the Lam”
2007 Sine Qua Non “Boddy & Soul”
2009 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese
1986 Chateau Climens
2010 Liquid Farm Golden Slope
2010 Black Cordon Ritchine Vyd “Block L”

1989 Chave Hermitage
1990 Chave Hermitage
1995 DRC La Tache
1984 Grace Family Cabernet
2004 Marcassin Blue Slide Ridge Pinot
2006 Marcassin Estate Pinot
2003 Verite La Muse
1970 La Mission Haut Brion
1990 Robert Ampeau & Fils Volnay 1er Cru Santenots
2000 Chateau Lagrange
1995 Christian Serafin Charmes Chambertin
2001 Opus I
2003 Forman
2003 Boca Il Rosso delle Donne
1982 Calon Segur
1995 Rayas Reserve CdP
2005 Domaine Perrot Minot Charmes Chambertin VV
2007 Tor Cabernet Beckstoffer To-Kalon
2010 Hilliard Bruce Pinot “Sun Vyd”

Special thanks to Pierre Amezcua for being my crucial sous chef and Robert as well!  Thanks to A.C and Adam of the CR8 team and Noah Lee for building the amazing dining environ once again!

Special welcome to Isaac Lee, our new D.J who did a superb job of elaborating music and special sounds during the dinners.

All in all, it was the direction of dining I have been wanting to lean towards and it came off with flying colors.  Just think, all of this was only possible because of Alexander McQueen, his genius and how it effected me as a chef.  Thank you wherever you are.







Ciao Thyme Part 2

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In early summer 2012, I had the pleasure of cooking at Ciao Thyme, Bellingham Washington’s premier spot for dining on all levels.  It was such a success and pleasure to be a part of their “Have Knives Will Travel” guest chef series, they asked me back for a fall expression as well.

Bellingham is a gem of a city, just over one hundred thousand people, yet the culture is laden with foodies just waiting to dive into creative unfamiliar cuisine.  It’s so special that I will be returning in early December for a few weeks for some more events. Then, Valentines day 2013, I will return and will do the first ever CR8 dining concept outside of Los Angeles!  This is a big deal for CR8 and also this tiny haven in the northwest.  Seats for the event are already being reserved, another ambitious sign!

The menu had to show the beginning of the fall season and as much local everything as possible.  It was time to get creative.

A mighty tree on the property of Tree Frog Night, a wonderful place to stay in Bellingham!

The amazing crew making it possible to deliver a successful dining event.

Quintessential Fall weather in the northwest

Bitterness:  Endive, tangerine, Pont l’Eveque, arugula, crispy nutmeg rice, black olive ash

Dinner for 45!

Mataio showing off mad knife skills

Local chanterelles at their finest

Local poulet, breast and thigh, foie gras puree, fig, puffed grains, brassica mixture, rose pepper drippings

Pear, saffron, honeycomb before cooking to become dessert

Saffron pear pudding, goats milk salted caramel, avocado yuzu gel, pumpkin cake powder, pumpkin seeds, basil

Being so close, it was wonderful to have a dinner at Willows Inn on Lummi Island with Kurt and Kara!

Ciao Thyme Chef Series

Forest bagsg

Early in the year, I was told about a lovely catering company in Bellingham Washington called Ciao Thyme.  They have a great set up doing various events and all with extreme details and care. Their inhouse dining room is quite spacious and leads as an extension to culinary exploration most catering companies don’t do.  Mataio and Jessica Gillis started a project called “Have Knives Will Travel” which brought in guest chefs from around America to showcase their talents and cuisine to the locals.

I was quite excited about receiving their invitation to be part of their series.  Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen in New York, and one of Food And Wine’s 2012 Best New Chefs was amongst the chefs to yield their knives there as well.

The Northwest holds a dear place in my heart since I used to call this place home while I was Personal Chef to Microsoft’s Paul Allen.  The people and terroir make this place special.  First off, discover the local bounties and ingredients to put the menu into activation.

The fruits of the forest.

Getting the table ready for 45 people!

It’s all about the quenelle!

All the wonderful people who work at Ciao Thyme!

An exploration of umami using coffee roasted by Velton Ross


Mataio prepping in the background!

Egg, Thai basil veloute, seed meringe, buttermilk


Textural play on beets

The dessert is coming together!

Flowers prepped, ready and waiting.

Jessica taking care of the details

The landscape had so much to offer!

I was quickly reminded of the magnificence and beauty of the landscape!

Special thanks to my dear friends Kara Black and Kurt Yandel for the introduction to Mataio and Jessica!  It was an amazing experience with a whole new group of friends and food lovers to bring into my circle.  Looking forward to the revisit in October!