Rafael Velazquez, a 13-year hospitality industry veteran, was named executive chef of the 445-room Hilton Westchester hotel in the fall of 2011, responsible for managing all culinary operations and developing new dining and catering concepts.
His responsibilities include overseeing food and beverage operations for the hotel’s new härth restaurant, in-room dining, banquets, catering and events.
He formerly was executive chef of the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, where he oversaw a staff of nearly 60 and managed three restaurants, two lounges and all banquets. Prior to that, he was executive chef of the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he managed a staff of 60 and created menus for the resort’s lounges and restaurant concepts including Steak 954, a luxury boutique steak house operated by Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurant.
Earlier in his career, Velazquez was executive chef of the former Fort Lauderdale Grande hotel and chef garde manger and executive sous chef at the Loews Miami Beach hotel, where he was responsible for a staff of nearly 100 and multiple food-service operations that generated more than $56 million annually.
He began his career in 1998 as chef d’ parties at the beachfront Sheraton Bal Harbour beach resort in Bal Harbour, Fla., before heading west to serve as a sous chef at the AAA five-diamond Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., and later as an assistant chef at the Wynn Las Vegas resort in Nevada.
Velazquez is a 2001 graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Miami, Fla., where he received an associate’s degree in culinary arts and a bachelor’s degree in food service management.
Velazquez is committed to culinary innovation and believes in using the finest local and seasonal ingredients and selections in his menus while striving to achieve his personal philosophy of “allowing ingredients to taste like themselves”. He and his family reside in Somers, N.Y.
Who or what is your culinary inspiration?
Most of my culinary inspiration is from my uncle.
What are your three favorite ingredients?
Salt, butter, and espellette pepper.
What is the world’s trendiest type of restaurant right now?
For me is the old with a twist of technology…
What’s your favorite national or regional cuisine?
My favorite cuisine has to be the Mediterranean and Asian
Who are your favorite food writers & chefs?
Daniel Boulud, Marco Pierre White, Thomas Keller, Alex Sttrata
What’s one piece of equipment you couldn’t live without?
I got to say the microplane.
What’s the one meal you would abolish?
It has to be Okra.
What region of the world do you feel is most influencing culinary arts in North America right now?
What do you feel is the most rewarding thing about being a chef?
When people take that first bit of what ever I have cook for them and they said to me amazing…
What should we cook for dinner tonight?
Whatever is available – that is fresh and in season - threat it with respect – let it favor express itself.
What is next?
Build a new kitchen and keep cooking amazing food.