As a chef who has been educated as a biochemist and has also worked as an artist, Chef Roberto has a singular approach to the kitchen: he treats it as both a laboratory and a studio, creating precise, attractive dishes. At COPA, Chef Roberto showcases Nuevo Latino small plates and main courses, bringing an elevated, modern style to traditional flavors and dishes from Spain, Cuba, and the Americas.
But he soon grew to love the craft and profession. From the first year it opened, Old Havana consistently won awards for Best of the Triangle and Best of Durham in its categories, including Best Cuban, Best Latin American and Caribbean, and Best Sandwich. Before long, Roberto realized that he had found his calling in “cultivating relationships from the soil to the table.” This is the vision that he brings with him to COPA: a passion for connecting diners to the land and history that is steeped into every bite.
Roberto sees today that the serpentine paths of his life have crisscrossed too many times to count, with each intersection bringing him closer to his true calling. Part scientist, part artist, part farmer, Roberto never intended to be a chef—but today he can’t imagine being anything else.
At COPA, we're passionate about cultivating relationships from the soil to the table. This means that we partner with organic farmers who care more about the quality of their soil than the ease of their harvest. We partner with farmers who practice healthy rotation of their animals on pasture, nurturing the soil as they go. This also means that we choose to take the long route at our farm, Terra Sacra, building up the soil so that we can provide fresh, nutritious produce.
Our philosophy also means that we don't just look for the best ingredients, but we also strive to build meaningful relationships with our farmers and local providers, fostering a dialogue that encourages each of us to perform to the highest standard. And we listen, too, paying attention to the needs of our vendors and seeking out new forms of partnership that will help them in their sustainability efforts. This could mean, for example, looking for a way to help a farmer sell an edible cover crop that is necessary for healthy soil but difficult to market. Or it could mean choosing to use smaller, heritage breeds of animals such as rabbit, poultry, lambs, and pigs, that are more sustainable for small farmers and increase the genetic diversity of livestock.
Cultivating relationships from the soil to the table also means that we care about our team members. We choose to pay a living wage, provide benefits, and offer a safe, nurturing work environment. This means that we are all committed to treating one another with respect and kindness.
Finally, some of the most meaningful and special relationships that we cultivate are with you, our guests. From our early days at Old Havana through today, we have formed close friendships with many of our guests. We have seen some of them marry and have their first child. To our great delight, some of those children have cut their teeth on our black beans and sweet maduros.
When you dine with us at COPA, you aren't just enjoying some of the nation's only farm-to-table Cuban food—you're engaging in a journey that begins in the earth itself, that turns strangers into friends, and that, almost magically, transports you to a time and place long forgotten, a time where people slowed down to savor flavors, to share face-to-face with loved ones, to nurture body and spirit.