Meet Chef Roberto Garduño
By: Evan Upchurch
Sometimes, the beauty of life lies in the unexpected and unplanned—the moments in which our path changes unexpectedly, resulting in an outcome far from our wildest dreams yet completely aligned with that which rests quietly in our hearts.
We sat down with Roberto (Beto) Garduño, the chef at our Home in Bacalar, who shared his trajectory as a chef, the major shifts in life that led him to Quintana Roo and his philosophy around food as medicine.
Born in Mexico City and raised in Cuernavaca, Beto has had a passion for cooking since childhood. He recounts, “Cooking was something I was interested in for as long as I can remember. In fact, one of the first Christmas memories I have is of asking for a miniature oven. It was seen as something for girls at the time, but I always envisioned an Italian chef with a mustache throwing a pizza in the air.”
After high school, Beto intended to transform his love of cooking into a career. He studied Restaurant Administration at CESA in Mexico City, where he wrote his thesis on farm-to-table gastronomy. Afterward, Beto went on to work as a bartender before moving to New York City, where he would trade in late nights for a more structured life in the kitchen of the famous chef Jean-Georges. During his time in New York City, Beto worked in many types of restaurants, some that had Michelin stars, and absorbed knowledge from all types of cuisines from around the world. Beto says, “I particularly fell in love with the flavors of Southeast Asia, which, in my opinion, shares a similar palate with Mexican cuisine with regard to acidity and spice.”
Eventually, Beto was offered an opportunity by Chef Jean-Georges to move to Jakarta, Indonesia, and open a new restaurant. With a plane ticket bought and goodbyes in order, Beto was ready for this new opportunity; but then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and, as was the case of many, life changed as he knew it. The deal fell through, and Beto was left with important life decisions to make. He says, “A friend told me I should move to Tulum since there was still movement there despite the pandemic, and so I did.”
While living and working in Quintana Roo, Beto met Horacio Dardano, our Executive Chef in Tulum, after a series of coincidences, who would turn out to be a like-minded chef and valued friend. When talks of our new Home in Bacalar arose, Beto was offered the position of Head Chef and accepted the adventure of moving to the remote town of Bacalar.
When reflecting on the decision, he says, “I was ready for a change. Once I hit my thirties, my mentality shifted, and I knew I wanted to put down roots somewhere. Bacalar has been that place for me. In a short time, I met my wife, who also works at Habitas, and we’re now expecting a baby boy in the upcoming months. While there are things I miss about the big city, Bacalar has given me peace and tranquility.”
At Siete, the Habitas family has worked hard to create an experience that echoes the lagoon’s beauty and the respect for nature that comes with being surrounded by such peace. Beto’s lifelong philosophy of cooking also grew roots at Habitas Bacalar’s restaurant, Siete, where he was able to design a creative and innovative menu rooted in seasonal, local ingredients alongside Chef Horacio and truly put into practice the concept of food as medicine.
He mentions, “The main reason I decided to work with Habitas is that our philosophies aligned. We’ve created a heavily plant-based menu that focuses on using seasonal products that can only be found in the local region. If you can’t find it here, we don’t use it, like certain berries, cheeses, condiments or meats. I feel very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
For Beto, the true heroes of the kitchen are the farmers who grow the ingredients necessary for Siete’s dishes. He says, “Currently, I am working closely with Olmo Torres, our Director of Sustainability, to develop a local farm for Siete. It’s a plan that goes hand-in-hand with our philosophy, and we’re very excited about making it a reality.” As the vision of Siete grows, so does our Home’s ability to inspire positive change in the community.
Life can change instantly and in ways we never thought possible. At Habitas, we seek to create moments of surprise and wonder that set the stage for inspiring change. As in Beto’s story, and those of so many who share our Homes, peace and tranquility are found when we are living aligned with all that rests in our hearts. At Siete, and at our Home in Bacalar, we’ve created a space where we can feel inspired in our path to true wellness and change for a better world.