Executive Chef Sebastian La Rocca shares his story as Hilton prepares to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. 15. This period is observed in the United States as a time to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic citizens from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Sebastian La Rocca, Executive Chef of the Hilton Columbus Downtown, has a lot to celebrate this month. La Rocca, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was asked earlier this year to “bake” three new dining concepts as part of the hotel’s major expansion, with the new tower debuting later this month.
La Rocca’s love for cooking began when he was just 6 years old, drawing inspiration from his grandmother’s cooking. What started as tasty family fun later translated into a career with London-based outfit La Rocca alongside celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michael Roux. He then emigrated to Costa Rica, where he hosted “Sabor”, a popular cooking show and ran several award-winning restaurants himself.
He joined Hilton earlier this year to lead the opening of FYR, Stories on High and Spark at the Hilton Columbus Downtown. According to La Rocca, his Argentinian origin and his international background played a big influence on the menus found in each.
“For a chef, it is essential to travel and experience all types of food and cultures.” he said. “Food is cultural. When you try food from a specific place, you understand and learn. I always say if you want to get to know me, try my food. Food talks about us, our feelings and our lives, it talks about our roots. This experience influences 100% of my food. I am a nomad. I cook with my heart and I like to express myself through food. I want our guests to have a real experience.
“I cook with my heart and love to express myself through food. I want our guests to have a real experience.” – Sebastian La Rocca, Executive Chef, Hilton Columbus Downtown.
La Rocca had a great time imagining what the menus of these new restaurants and the overall dining experiences would look like. For him, opening a new restaurant from scratch requires imagination and teamwork.
“It all starts with a dream or a vision” he said. “Then we need it to materialize and that’s the fun part. We focus on the vision and [then] work on different tasks at the same time, such as kitchen design, decor, menu, uniforms, staff, marketing, sourcing, etc. We have long days and really intense months, but it’s so rewarding to see the final product come to life after months of hard work, it’s a team effort. For me, each opening is unique, not only for the place or the people, but it’s a new concept… a new baby being born and seeing a dream come true is my main motivation.
The results are three must-see destinations:
- ARY will serve Latin American dishes prepared on a wood-fired oven that can be accompanied by specialty cocktails.
- Stories at height will offer a cocktail-based food and drink menu of Japanese-influenced small plates (think yakitori, fresh sushi rolls and wagyu sliders)
- At the lobby level Spark will offer a Midwestern-inspired menu with classic cocktails and local beers.
In addition to the menu, it is experience to eat.
“As a chef, I believe we don’t just ‘sell’ food, we provide an experience. » he said. “We want our customers to have a real experience from the moment they walk through our doors, and that includes all sorts of different elements, from the music to the lighting, the service, the food and the ingredients we use, as well as the atmosphere of our staff. All of this combined will create memories for our customers – and that’s our main goal.
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