Traveler. Bold. Incessant. Natural. Unique. All words to describe Rafael Barrera; both in his personal life and in the kitchen. No limits… To him, everything is possible.
Chef Barrera left his Caribbean island, Puerto Rico, to explore other culinary destinations. While living in Miami he was exposed to countless cultures, which inspired him to delve deeper into the culinary universe he knew as a child.
A frequent traveler to Latin America, he worked at one of the most prestigious hotels in the world, The Tides Zihuatanejo in Mexico. There, he began working as a dishwasher, and quickly worked his way up to cook.
He followed his world traveler spirit and made California his home, settling in none other than the Napa Valley, the mecca of good wine, good food and good life. He studied at the renowned The Culinary Arts Institute of America, becoming a “Chef de Cuisine”. He spent time at The Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. However, his experience at Auberge du Soleil –under award winning Chef Robert Curry– taught him a valuable lesson that continues with him today: the difference between good and excellent lies in the smallest details.
He went back to Miami and worked at Four Seasons Hotel, Mandarin Oriental and Nobu Restaurant, where he developed the agility to fulfill the needs of an extensive and demanding clientele. Later, Florida’s coasts brought him closer to The Bahamas. There, he encountered one of those character-defining experiences as a chef for chartered yachts. He worked at sea for three years. He was exposed to a world of unexpected situations. He learned to surpass his own expectations, as well as his clients’ –true connoisseurs of fine dining–, to dominate the challenges that come from cooking in the middle of the ocean, to comprehend that there are no impossibles in gastronomy, and to even sleep in a confined space between tomatoes and cooking books.
These events –along with the quail eggs with caviar, the oysters and the foie gras his father introduced him to at a young age– marked his culinary style. Now he is known for applying Asian, Latin and Mediterranean influences, and for his unmistakable way to create fusions using local, seasonal and quality ingredients, that would never overshadow the product he chooses as the main character of every dish.
He lives to cook, and everything associated with it: people, sharing, serving and conversations over the table. Also, his passion for traveling, his academic accomplishments in Business and Hospitality, the classical techniques he acquired as an apprentice of award winning Chef Augusto Schreiner, and his effervescent personality empower him to present a fresh, harmonious and rich in knowledge platform that is without limits.
Nowadays, he works as an independent chef excelling in creating gastronomic experiences, where everything surrounding the food becomes an essential part of the degustation. It does not matter if it is at an indigenous ruin, a restaurant or a mansion, he is known for creating unique experiences of tastes, pleasures and senses.
Chef Barrera has cooked for internationally renowned artists, shared stages with Food Network chefs, participated in Saborea, Puerto Rico Food & Wine Fest and Napa’s World of Flavors, and offers private workshops, as well as collaborates with prestigious magazines, such as Esquire and Vivir Mejor.