Born in Mexico City, Roberto Santibañez’s approach to his native cuisine — typically misconstrued as a monotonous medley of tacos and tortillas — is to keep it authentic but interesting. Santibañez’s flair for infusing traditional Mexican dishes with global elements has won him extraordinary critical acclaim in the United States and abroad.
As with most legendary chefs, Santibañez’s love affair with cooking began as a young boy when his grandmother, a “world traveler,” taught him that food preparation does not always have to be by the (recipe) book. After working in kitchens throughout college, Santibañez went on to strengthen his classical culinary foundation at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
Santibañez then spent two years as the executive chef of the Henbury Estate in Cheshire, England, before returning to Mexico City to cook for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, where he “rediscovered” the complexities of Mexican cuisine. Looking back, Santibañez recalls this period as “the true jumping-off point” for his career.
“I was ready to combine all that I had learned with everything I felt in my heart,” explains Santibañez. Over the next several years, Santibañez added the title of restaurateur to his résumé, becoming the chef-owner of El Sax, La Circunstancia, and Restobar Salamandra, all which opened to exceptional reviews and helped revitalize downtown Mexico City.
Seeking new challenges, Santibañez left Mexico in 1997 to become the executive chef of one of the oldest upscale Mexican restaurants in the United States, Fonda San Miguel in Austin, Texas. During his four years there, Santibañez was named “Best Chef” by The Austin Chronicle and garnered a five-star review from The Austin American-Statesman.
In May 2002, Santibañez joined the team at Rosa Mexicano, where he served as culinary director until August 2007. In May 2007, Rosa’s New Mexican Table, a cookbook featuring the restaurants’ most popular dishes as well as Santibañez’s personal recipes, was published by Artisan.
Currently Santibanez is the owner of Truly Mexican a New York based food consulting firm. He is also the Culinary Partner of Maria Maria, a growing national family of restaurants of which guitar legend Carlos Santana serves as a partner. He is also the Culinary Advisor for the Chilango restaurants in London, UK where patrons have the opportunity to sample Roberto Santibañez’s globally-inspired twist on traditional Mexican fare.
Santibañez’s recipes have also been published in several cookbooks and in the nation’s leading magazines including Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Martha Stewart Living, SELF, and Saveur, among others, and he has made frequent appearances on television programs such as NBC’s The TODAY Show.
Santibañez has traveled extensively as an ambassador for Mexican cuisine, presenting lectures and demonstrations at the Culinary Institute of America and other esteemed institutions throughout the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Australia.