Attaining Nirvana

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Zoë chef Roberto Bustillo will enlighten your palate with his culinary artistry Growing up in Mid-City, Roberto Bustillo Jr., the executive chef at Zoë, located in the swank W New Orleans Hotel, was raised in a Latin American family where kitchen duties were typically reserved for daughters. However, as the youngest child and only son in a family of four children, Roberto, much to the dismay of his parents, found pleasure in the kitchen and quickly developed a passion for hosting guests.

While in high school, he began working at his family’s restaurant and was later hired by the Sazerac in the Fairmont Hotel, where he was first exposed to fine dining. Since then, Roberto has honed his culinary skills at several prestigious local restaurants, including the Windsor Court Grill Room, Galatoire’s and Victor’s, in the Ritz-Carlton.

After 9/11, Roberto was tapped to open the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia, where he met certified master chef John Johnstone, the man who would forever change his life and help define his culinary style. While working and studying under Johnstone, Roberto was introduced to Buddhism, a practice that taught him balance within himself and within dedication to his craft. After a yearlong stint in Utah, he found his way back home to the place where he discovered his love for cooking.

New Orleans Living recently chatted with chef Roberto and got the scoop on this accomplished and dedicated culinary expert.

How would you best describe your style of cuisine?

Simple food prepared with everyday ordinary ingredients, cooked with love and presented with fashion!

What is your greatest culinary challenge?

Being content. I am always looking for ways to be more innovative and create something better. I am always educating myself in today’s cuisine and pushing to do more. Sometimes I have to listen to the reality fairy and slow down.

If you could only have one kitchen tool, what would it be and why?

My knives. I can use my hands to cook and plate, but I will always need my knives to butcher and prep ingredients.

If you could cook for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Dead: I would cook for Auguste Escoffier. He gave us the cuisine that we practice today. I guess you can say that he is food’s Thomas Edison. He was a culinary visionary.

Alive: Angela Bustillo, my wife. Her simple smile means more to me than any words can ever say. She has been by my side throughout my career and has seen me bloom from a line cook to where I am at today. As a chef, we make lots of sacrifices, and Angela has always understood my determination and dedication to my craft.

Who does the cooking in your family?

Angela does most of the cooking at home. I may be the chef at work, but my wife is the chef at home. We have three beautiful children, one of which aspires to be a chef one day.

What is your ideal meal?

Anyone who knows me will tell you, I love to eat sandwiches. It is simple and mindless. At home I always have fresh deli meats. Every now and then I will get adventurous and make gourmet sandwiches, like seared foie gras and warm berry compote.

What is the most gratifying aspect of being a chef?

Hosting guests and seeing their expressions of delight. A facial expression says a thousand words.