With seven restaurants at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, Executive Chef David Hackett has his plate full. But Hackett, with more than 30 years of slicing and dicing under his belt, still found time to chat about Harley-inspired eats, his grandma's tamales and Mickey's fave dish. He'll also be chatting - and, more importantly - cooking September 24-26th for NBCMiami's East Coast Crush and Cuisine. Get your tickets here.
Favorite dish on the Westin's menu(s)?
I would have to say AiZia Restaurant's Kurobuta char sui pork belly with sour apples, candied ginger, bok choy and the Toro tuna tartar with house-made shitake chips for an appetizer and a sakitini to wash it down.
Biggest difference between stand-alone and hotel restaurants?
Since so many celebrity chefs have taken up residence in 4 and 5 diamond hotels, this has helped to bridge the gap when it comes to free standing vs. hotel restaurants. We all have the same passion and commitment. Also, as a chef/cook working in a hotel, it allows you the ability to become more educated with different cooking styles because there are more chefs to learn from.
You worked at Disney for a while. What was Mickey's favorite dish?
Yes that was quite some years ago. Back then I believe Mickey's favorite dish was the smoked turkey legs at the Magic Kingdom, I am not sure what he prefers these days, and he is probably a vegetarian -- or craves duck soup.
If you were to jump on your Harley right now, where would you go to eat (besides the Westin, of course)?
I would first take a nice long relaxing ride to the beach, then stop at some place casual like Carlos and Pepes on 17th street for their tuna dip, crab nachos and an ice cold Tecate.
Five ingredients every kitchen should have?
Kosher or sea salt, cracked black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon or white wine.
Five cooking tools every kitchen should have?
French Knife (non -serrated), paring knife, 8-inch kitchen tongs, metal spatula, heat resistant rubber spatula and a wine opener.
Favorite food memory?
When I was about 9 years old, my grandmother would come over to our house on the south side of Chicago every other Sunday and they would prepare homemade pork tamales and dried fruit tamales. After the tamales were done, they would make chili rellenos, homemade refried beans and Spanish rice. The house would be filled with those aromas, just talking about it is making me hungry.
Favorite thing to cook at home?
I enjoy grilling over charcoal or wood the most. The smells and the heat make my beer taste better, and it allows me time to drift off into man's world.
If you had a cooking show, what would it be called and what would the concept be?
Since the Food Network has begun, there have been a lot of shows out there, what is there left to do? If I was going to do a show, it would be called "Stuffed." The concept would be all about foods that are stuffed, rolled or filled -- the possibilities are endless.
If you could only eat one food or dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I would have to say tacos al pastor (chili marinated roasted pork, salsa verde, fresh cilantro and fresh limes); they are awesome, and the best ones are made in Chicago on 26th and Pulaski.