Sarasota Herald Tribune | By ABBY WEINGARTEN, Correspondent | Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Rolando Casillas of Café L’Europe on St. Armands Circle has spent the past 21 years working up to “executive chef” status, he says.
Originally from Mexico, he moved to Sarasota in 1994 to work at the Oaks Club, after years of living and cooking in New York City. He has collaborated with global culinary masters to bring an international flavor to the posh eatery’s current menu.
Q: Tell me about your culinary background.
A:When I originally came to this country from Mexico, it was supposed to be for a short time to help my brother with his restaurant in New York City. My plans were to continue as an engineer, but within a few months of working alongside my brother, I discovered how much I loved working in the kitchen. Even today, I still use my engineering skills and I love using my hands. I get great satisfaction from creating something that is both delicious and beautiful.
Q: Who inspires your cooking?
A:The chefs I’ve met over the years. I’ve worked with some amazingly talented international masters from around the world-from France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and of course, New York City.
Q: Have you experimented with different styles to find your specialty area?
A:When I first started cooking, I was focusing on the classic American cuisines, but with my growth and the opportunity to work with talented international chefs, I became more focused on European dishes. I loved the style, the preparation, the thought that went into each dish and how the flavors complemented each other. European cuisine is grand, elegant and a wonderful experience, and now that I’m working at Café L’Europe, I want our guests to have that same experience and satisfaction.
Q: How do you feel when you see someone enjoying your food?
At the end of the day, when you’re exhausted from working in a hot kitchen, the pace is go-go-go and you just want to go home and put your feet up, you walk out on the restaurant floor and see how happy everyone is. It validates my hard work and decision to leave engineering behind. I go home every night to my family knowing I made someone a great meal.