The rich flavors of Mexico that emanated from his mother’s kitchen inspired a young Roberto to pursue a career in the culinary arts. Today, Executive Chef Roberto and his team of sous chefs, from Puerto Rico, Hawaii and St. Louis, draw on their culinary experiences to create the diverse cultural flavors featured on the menu at Catalina’s Avalon Grille.
With a staff that often exceeds 50 during the high season, Chef Roberto manages the food and beverage operations at all Catalina Island Company resort venues in Avalon and Two Harbors, including Avalon Grille, Mt. Ada, Pavilion Hotel, Descanso Beach Club, Ben’s Bakery and Harbor Reef Restaurant.
Chef Roberto began his career in 2000 at The Four Seasons Newport Beach, which later became the Island Hotel. He honed his skills over the next 12 years there, twice earning Manager of the Quarter, as he worked his way up from Chef de Partie to Chef de Cuisine. He was Executive Sous Chef at Santa Barbara’s Belmond El Encanto for three years, before joining Catalina Island Company in 2015 as Executive Sous Chef.
Over the past two years as Catalina Island Company’s Executive Chef, Roberto has embraced the challenges that working on an island presents to creating and managing menus that feature premium meats, local seafood and farmstand produce. “On the mainland, when I ran out of something, I just picked up the phone and had it delivered in a couple of hours. Here on Catalina, it takes a couple of days,” he said.
At the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival, Chef Roberto will be preparing Grilled Octopus, one of his signature dishes at Avalon Grille. He starts by slow-cooking the octopus until tender, before finishing it crisp on the grill. It’s served over heirloom beans, pickled red pearl onions, chick peas and roasted eggplant purée, with savory pimento aioli and a Fresno chile kick.