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Meet the Chef Behind the Flavors Part 2


Our new Executive Chef David Hackett is bringing his “A game” to Caribe Royale Orlando. Chef David comes to the Caribe with decades of culinary and management experience, having honed his extensive skills in positions across the globe. His long resume includes stints at the storied Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, the Marriott Marquis Dubai, and the powerhouse convention destination, Gaylord National Resort in Washington, D.C. We are thrilled to experience Chef David’s creations here at the Caribe. In Part One of our interview with Chef David, we learned about how he started his culinary career. Now we’ll dive in and discover what inspires his cooking today, and what he has planned for our Caribe Royale Orlando meetings and convention guests. Chef David joins the Caribe Royale Orlando’s talented culinary team with professionalism, creativity and a passion for exceeding guest expectations.

What is the most memorable meal that you’ve ever enjoyed?

When I was considering a move from the Harbor Beach Marriott to the New York Marriott Marquis, I was entertained by the food and beverage director. The chef took me to a restaurant called Lespinasse. It was an 11-course tasting menu, and probably the best meal I’ve ever had. They were working to entice me to come to New York City, and that certainly pushed it over the edge for me.

What is your favorite food city for a vacation?

That’s a tough one because I enjoy it all. I like finding the small independent mom-and-pop places that are doing something cutting edge, new or different. I love Hong Kong, and I love Japan and Mexico. Everywhere I go, I’m in search of the ultimate al pastor taco. These pork tacos actually originated in Lebanon, in the Middle East. My favorite ones are from a stand in Chicago. They marinate the pork, but then they layer it, so it looks like a shawarma. Next, they carve it off. The best thing they do is take two fresh corn tortillas, and they dip them in the pork fat, then grill the tortillas. They layer salsa verde along with the pork and raw onions. Discovering new ways to make traditional dishes like this really inspires me.

How does your travel influence your cooking?

Working overseas and traveling has been a big influence on my cuisine. When I was in Dubai, Hong Kong and Europe, I learned how to blend different flavors of cuisines. So, if I’m doing a hummus, it doesn’t always have to be chickpea hummus, it could be beans, or beets, and I pair it with unexpected spices. I like to get creative and really blow it out, like the shawarmas that I just mentioned. It doesn’t have to just be a chicken or lamb shawarma; you can really get out there and try something like alligator. So, we’re going to kind of twist it up a little bit here.

What is the scope of your responsibility as Executive Chef for Caribe Royale?

As the Executive Chef for the property, I’m in charge of all the food within the group: all the restaurants, room service and the Convention Center. This is a very large property with 1,215 one-bedroom suites,  120 fully renovated lakeside villas, and a new 50,000 square foot ballroom that’s being built right now, which will take us to 220,000, square feet of space. It’s really quite a large operation, which I’m very used to from my past experience.

How is banquet food different from restaurant food?

My goal as a chef is not to have a difference. I feel that banquet dining should be an extension of your restaurants. I’ve led several large banquet houses before, and we always strive to do restaurant-quality food in a banquet setting.

Tell us about the menus that you are developing for Caribe Royale Orlando.

When it comes to menus, I decided to first develop the ones for banquets, to present them alongside the newly expanded Convention Center. We wanted to make menus that are really enjoyable. We have a lot of cuisines and different varieties. Our goal is to focus on dishes that our guests will really enjoy.

Where does your banquet menu planning begin?

It all begins with selecting the very best ingredients and dishes. For example, for lunches and casual cocktail hours, we’re going to have some fun on an action station. We’ll offer a variety of different carved sausages from South America, Germany and Italy. We’ll craft several unique toppings, sauces and mustards, and serve it along with different types of rolls and pretzel buns. I like to really have fun with these interactive stations to make them conversation starters. I think when people talk about food, it makes their experience that much more memorable.

What dishes can guests expect to find in the new Caribe Royale banquet menu?

Well, not only do we have prepared menus, but we really like to customize our menus toward our guests. When our guests are looking for anything specific, we certainly can help build from that. We want their experience to be really memorable, with great food and great service. Our goal is that it just feels like it’s a big restaurant and a really welcoming experience. Our dishes are creative, sometimes maybe a little bit out there, but again, you don’t know until you try. When I think of all the plates I’ve done before, in my experience over 42 years, I’ve always received a great reception.

Chef David joins Caribe Royale Orlando’s talented culinary team with professionalism, creativity, and a passion for exceeding guests’ expectations. When you book a meeting or convention with us, our meetings team will work alongside Chef David to come up with the perfect dining experience for your guests. Come taste the innovative creations Chef David and his accomplished team cook up at the Caribe’s award-winning restaurants and convention center!

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