The Chef's Short Story
All because two people fell in love
Chef Roberto Cruz grew up near Chicago, IL as a shy kid that loved to research things like Mythology, Art, Music and even studied different Dictionaries and Encyclopedias just to learn. His family of 5 boys was very athletic and competitive. When Roberto would have a free moment he would hide away from everyone to draw, play video games or study guitar.
At the young age of 16 he became a father with his first girlfriend and had to learn how to put others first to take care of his new baby girl Erica, when he dropped out of school. He worked at a Deli, Grocery Store, and took GED classes at night just to get by. He always found himself excited while in a Bakery and knew that they paid well and he could be taught how to do it. So at 17 he took his first baking job at the biggest neighborhood Bakery in Cicero. From there at 18 he met a Chef from an Italian Restaurant who saw something in his work ethic and offered him a cooking position where he first learn to sauté professionally. Here is where he met his first love and had his son Joseph at 20 years old.
Changing various jobs trying to make ends meet he decided to do carpeting to make better money. He met his first mentor and boss Pat Mullen a few years in that had some of the same struggles. He taught Roberto meditation and Buddhism all while training him to become a Master Carpet Installer. While on a job site one day he ended up kicking his hip out of place and was bed ridden for a couple of months. He laid in bed and meditated on what career to take next. Going back to research and studies on what type of Art school to go to, he came across an email from Le Cordon Bleu talking about a Culinary Art Career and Training by the original method of todays Fine Dining. This was exactly the sign he needed.
At 26, Roberto decided to go for it and start his second career. He took $80 from his rent money and applied for school. Through school his learnings touched on nearly every passion of his from Ancient History to Art Theory, Nutrition and Psychology. His 101 Baking teacher Susan Taves saw his ambition and potential and offered Roberto a position on her private catering team and also as a apprentice in school. This is where he learned all of his baking fundamentals on how to balance sweet and savory. After 2 years he graduated from culinary school, in 2004, to start his career at the Westin O'Haire as a Chef for the first time doing garde manger!
After a year he landed a gig at House of Blues as a Broiler Chef on the late night club shift. Mostly cooking for entertainers and their crowds. One night cooking off menu, a plain grilled chicken sandwich, requested by Dan Aykroyd himself! He worked at various restaurants after that and even deciding to take a few years break, he finally followed a lead to be a team caterer for the Chicago Bears. He cooked for the team and their families, meeting his first Culinary Olympian Team of Chefs. These were what he called the first "Mad Scientists" he got to work with.
Through the years seeing the ups and downs of different kitchens' work ethics from Chefs who were lazy to Chefs who inspired him. Roberto needed time to think about why he got into this career and wanted to stay doing this. His long term relationship with his first love ended and he had to figure out what really made him happy. So he started brainstorming and creating vision boards on some of his favorite Heroes like philosopher Joseph Campbell and the saying" Follow Your Bliss and the universe will open doors where there were once walls". He now saw his future! He went back to meditation and prayed for faith again in love and happiness in both his career and at home.
About a year later at the age of 36, he met his wife Melissa. Who on a date had made her a "simple" chocolate mousse with a strawberry garnish. She looked at him and said "What is this? Wow this is delicious, you are going to be big someday!" With that piece of inspiration he moved out to the suburbs to be near Melissa and found the Herrington Hotel. Here he got to start creating his own pastry items and help change some recipes and adjust to the right methods that are to Chef Cruz's standards. Making dipped strawberries for people like Neil Armstrong and meeting Alec Baldwin was some of his favorites!
At this point in his life he felt unstoppable with the perfect partner and love who supported his dreams, no matter what he did, as long as he was happy. Roberto decided to start his own cook book at home trying different techniques and recipes. In 2014 he got married to his Muse and opened up Follow Your Bliss in a shared kitchen! While building his catering business he also took a job at the Q Center in St Charles to help supplement his income for his new dream. This is where he met the best team of Chefs who did events for 1200 or more International Professionals daily. This refreshed him on everything that was to come next.
Traveling with Melissa, he fell in love with Florida but knew there was a culinary deficit that they could help change. Wanting to live more tropical and by the water anyway, they both decided to sell there businesses and move to Florida. With only interviews for jobs and a dream to open a Café with Pizza and Pastry in the tropics. They took the leap!
Within 3 weeks of moving Roberto found Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club which had elite owners and members like Babe Ruth. He thought this would be the perfect place to work to fill time while he saved for his dream but discovered his most freedom yet as a Chef. Learning how to custom carve melons and pumpkins. Creating vegan special menus monthly. He moved on to do wine pairings with dessert, this is where he got his first standing ovation with his Manchego Cheesecake paired with Champ de Re'ves Pinot Noir. Putting over 3 dozen items on the clubs menus in his 2 year stay there. It was now time.
Roberto is excited to have the platform to offer everything! His studies, research and training with different cooking methods over the years range from French, Italian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Polish, Russian, South American and Good 'ol American!
WE ARE READY TO OPEN THE DOORS TO THE NEXT CHAPTER!
OUR STORY CONTINUES WITH YOU.