Meet Executive Chef Carmen Rodriguez of Reservoir at the Arrive hotel
The restaurant's executive chef, Carmen Rodriguez, moved to the desert in September 2015 and joined Reservoir in June 2016 after a stint at the Miramonte Resort & Spa in Indian Wells. "What I’m known for is the global Latin thing of fusing different cuisines together," he says. "But more than anything else, I fuse cultures together. I look at the history of the dish and when I find a commonality between an Asian dish and a Latin dish is when I put them together. I look for a commonality in the culture and people behind it—there are stories behind every dish. So it’s not just doing chop suey with refried beans!"
Rodriguez has been involved with food his entire life. He's originally from Chicago, but every summer he’d travel with his family who were migrant workers. "My mother and my grandmother would carry me around in the fields throughout the United States—California, Washington, Oregon, Texas, wherever there was work, we would go. I learned to cook from my grandmother, my mom, and my great grandmother. We would take seconds, or the ugly product that wouldn’t sell, and we'd would make great things out of it in the camps."
After a brief apprenticeship at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago when he was just 17, Rodriguez went into the Air Force as a security police officer. Sidelined by an injury, he soon found himself back in the kitchen. "I worked as a fixer," he says. "I’d go to restaurants that were failing at military bases and train them to meet the government standards. And I cooked at the Pentagon for six months. I still have a very high security clearance!"
"But through it all, I apprenticed when I’d travel," he adds. "I’d go knock on doors and learn the true cuisines of the countries on my days off. That’s where I came up with the whole global Latin thing at Reservoir."
"My philosophy on food really starts with what I was taught by my great grandmother and grandmother, everyone I worked with in the field, and in my whole career. I first heard this saying when I was six years old from my grandmother: 'With love and respect in your heart, you’re always going to have happiness in your life.' She had it on the arch of her kitchen. If you didn’t love and respect everything in the kitchen, you weren’t allowed in her kitchen."
As an extension of that philosophy, Rodriguez works with the organization Worth our Weight (WOW) in Santa Rosa, California where disadvantaged youths apprentice in a one-year, tuition-free culinary and food service training program. He also works with charities in Santa Fe, Baja, and India. "I was one of those kids at one point in my life and I really wanted to go back and help them," he says.
Clearly always up for a new challenge, Rodriguez with be overseeing ARRIVE's newest restaurant, Draughtsman, while continuing to handle all of the culinary aspects of the hotel.
"For Draughtsman, the partners sent me a menu basically of all their travels and something that really stuck with them," he says. "I took their ideas and put my spin on them, infused some beers into the recipes, liquor, and what not. I went a little higher-end pub food. There’s going to be a steak, maybe chicken pot pie, burgers, chicken wings—but baking them instead of frying, and glazing with three different sauces. My chefs are really excited. Everything is going to be unusual, but something you can identify with."
In other words, it's going to be an extension of the commitment and passion Rodriguez has for the culinary arts and for his new life in the desert. "I just love this town and I love the people. I like that hometown feel with a little bit of the big city life—not too much. Plus, for me, it’s a brand new palate. I can do a lot of different things that are new and interesting out here."
Caption: Chef Carmen Rodriguez on the patio of Reservoir at the ARRIVE hotel.
Photography by Sarah Husvar