Name: David Scalise
Title: Executive chef
Location: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole way, Hollywood, 954-327-7625, SeminoleHardRockHollywood.com
Time at this location: Three months
Style of food prepared: Scalise oversees eight food outlets, including the diner-style Blue Plate and fine-dining Council Oak
Background: Supervising 200 workers is nothing new for Scalise, who aspires to be a corporate chef for a major hotel chain. After growing up cooking with his Italian family in Columbia, Mo., he directed resort culinary staffs across the country. He most recently was executive chef of nine restaurants at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach.
"At the Sawgrass, I worked very close with local farmers and fishermen," Scalise says. "I even went as far as raising bees. We sold our local sawgrass honey and used it to cook with at the restaurants."
Q: What's the biggest challenge in managing so many restaurants/concepts at once?
A: I really enjoy the diversity . . . it certainly makes for an interesting day. When all of the restaurants are at capacity, my day is spent walking from one restaurant to the other, jumping in to help wherever needed. New Year's Eve is a prime example: We fed close to 4,000 people. There is never a dull moment.
Q: How do your clients' tastes and desires differ here compared to other resorts across the country?
A: The biggest difference and most rewarding experience of living in so many places is learning to cook the regional cuisines. As a chef, you have to adapt your style to your guests' tastes. For example, in Southern California, diners were adventurous, so I could get away with new and trendy items. In Jacksonville, diners were more conservative, so I had to take some regional Southern favorites and put a modern influence on them. The South Florida clientele seem to be in the middle. At Seminole Hard Rock, we have traditional steakhouse items on the Council Oak menu, but we get to be creative with our nightly specials.
Q: What are your two favorite dishes on the menus?
A: Our prime dry-aged beef in Council Oak and our house-ground brisket burgers in Blue Plate.
Q: What changes might you foresee to keep your restaurants fresh and exciting?
A: I would like to incorporate more small farms into our resort restaurants. I would also like to start our own garden growing organic seasonal produce, as well as keeping a few beehives.
Q: Where do you like to go for culinary travel?
A: I have eaten amazing food in France, Italy and Portugal. New York and Chicago have unbelievable restaurants. The food scene in South Florida is becoming sophisticated now, and there are many world-class restaurants here as well.Copyright © 2015, South Florida