An all-around enjoyable dining experience can go a long way and not many people know this better than Stratton’s Chef De Cuisine, Luca Sena. Luca’s passion for cooking seems to go unmatched and as we sat down with him for this interview, it was made known almost immediately that producing a high-quality dish is something he takes great pride in. In the kitchen with him were two chefs, both of whom attended Johnson & Wales Culinary School, the same culinary school where Luca sharpened his teeth (and knives). He talked highly of them and their abilities, making it abundantly clear that they had earned his respect in more ways than one. Luca and his staff have the desire to churn out mouth-watering meals and that is exactly what they do. We wanted to learn more so we went straight to the source to find out what’s cookin’ at Stratton.
What is your position at Stratton?
Chef De Cuisine. I’m the head chef here at Verde, although as the Chef De Cuisine, I will also go into the other kitchens on the resort and help guide them, not tell them how to do their job, but just teach them how to open, how to close, how to present dishes in different ways, stuff like that.
When did you decide cooking was something you wanted to pursue?
Well, my family is in the business so I kind of grew up around it. I remember watching my grandmother make pasta on Mondays when our family restaurant was closed. That’s when the whole family got together at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather was the executive chef, and my uncle was the head chef at our family restaurant, La Familia, which is still open today in Philadelphia. So, I was around it, and I think it was at the age of 12 or 13 I started to get paid for helping at the restaurant running food. Once I got to be 15 or 16, I realized I wanted to be in the back doing what my uncle and grandfather were doing. There was nothing like watching the reactions people would have when my uncle and grandfather would bring them their food. I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years, and I haven’t looked back once.
How long have you been working as a chef professionally?
I went culinary school at Johnson and Wales and graduated in 1997. After that, I had to help prep at places before I could even become a line cook, making minimum wage. That’s the sacrifice you have to make in this industry. I then became a sous-chef at 24 which is where I learned a lot from a number of different head chefs. After a while, an opportunity to be a head chef presented itself and I took it.
How long have you been a chef at Stratton?
I think I’m going on 5 years.
What brought you to Stratton?
I had been working at my own restaurant in Philadelphia as both the owner and the head chef. I just got tired, when you’re there every single day and nobody else wants to work, you get burned out. A friend of mine from college, Jan Giejda, is actually who got me up here. A friend of Jan and I was a rep for Cisco at the time and he had told me Jan moved up here, so I reached out and told him I was looking for a job. The rest is history.
How would you describe your cooking philosophy?
I like to keep things light as much as possible. When you lose yourself, you lose everybody else in the kitchen. I have worked in kitchens where the head chef was hostile towards their co-workers, and it never ended well. Things get can get crazy, so if I notice one of my staff is overwhelmed, I tell them to take a deep breath and if they need, go take a minute to gather themselves. It’s important to me that at the end of the night, everybody gets a handshake, and there is no residual tension from the shift that just took place. Aside from that, I think bouncing ideas off each other is really beneficial, especially with the younger generation. They have ideas I would never think of, and vice versa. It makes for a productive dynamic.
What direction do you plan to take Verde in?
I want to make it a little more inviting, with more of a steak house feel to it. I like to see families enjoying themselves, kids’ eyes lighting up before their meal even hits the table. Serving meals that look pretty, but also serving meals that guests can enjoy. I see a lot of chefs putting too many intricacies into their dishes, and I think that can be overdone. Sometimes you just have to let the food speak for itself. But overall, I think we want to have more of a focus on our meats and our house-made pastas while also offering a spot where all Stratton guests can come and feel comfortable dining.
We talked early life, coming to Stratton, cooking philosophies, and future plans. It was an honor. Between his ability to cook, and his outgoing and genuine personality, we feel extremely lucky to have Luca on our team. Next time you’re visiting Stratton, be sure to dine at Verde in the Village for a tasty, hot meal crafted by none other than our Chef De Cuisine, Luca Sena.
Thanks for checking out this Employee Community interview! Make sure you keep an eye out on Instagram for our next one in the coming weeks.
Published by Harley Smith on September 19, 2022