LIVING BREATHING KITCHEN
Having grown up in Palm Springs to a famous chef father, renowned popup chef, Robert Castañeda, never wanted to cook. He has now been cooking for 35 years and is one of the five original chefs who started the popup dinner phenomenon in Los Angeles.
Chef Robert learned from the best— his famed father, Juan Castañeda, who has been in charge of the kitchen of the Legendary Melvyn’s Restaurant & Lounge in Palm Springs, California for the past 38 years, which was an exclusive hideaway for icons such as Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Liberace, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and President Eisenhower, among many others.
“I started cooking alongside my dad. I was trained in French and Italian cuisines, but I yearned to explore more flavors and styles from my Mexican and Cuban heritage. I like to bring cultures together in my cooking to push the envelope and challenge the norm.”
This desire to push the envelope is one of the reasons Chef Robert was at the forefront of the popup dinner scene many years ago. “I like the idea that we bring people together for a brief, highly memorable experience, and to create something— food, flavors, textures— that are experimental and impermanent. And it’s always different.” Originality and the desire to create and develop new culinary techniques are what drives him. Going to different countries to learn about new or rare ingredients and how to extract their flavors to use in new ways are what has contributed to Chef Robert’s success.
Chef Robert’s passion is The Living, Breathing Kitchen, his farm-to-table traveling popup dinner experience, in which he brings unexpected yet mind-blowing culinary experiences to people all around the country. “I am constantly pushing myself to get to that new and unexplored level of gastronomy, and popups are my way of inviting people to share in that journey because the things I learn and discover are fresh, and they get to experience them almost as soon as I do. And I love that. It’s very exciting for everyone involved, especially myself.”