An Interview with Nora A. Galdiano, CEC, ACE
What is your present employment and tell us a little bit about it?
Executive Chef of Hilton Orlando/Altamonte Springs, a 311-room hotel, the largest hotel in north Orlando. I have been there since Aug. 13, 2012. I set direction for all culinary operations and manage a team of 17 culinarians and stewards.
What special awards have you earned within the ACF?
- 2014 ACF SE Region Chef of the Year Semi-Finalist
- Cutting Edge Award 2012
- Galbani Mozzarella Caprese Challenge, Southeast Region First Place 2012
- Americas Chefs Competition, 2 Person Team Competition, Gold Medal 2011
- Taste of Elegance Pork Signature Recipe Competition, Gold Medal 2011
- USA Culinary Cup Challenge Team Competition, Gold Medal 2009
- Florida Alligator Signature Recipe Competition, Silver Medal 2008
- Central Florida Chapter “Chef of the Year” 2007
- Land O’ Lakes Signature Recipe Competition, Gold Medal 2006
- Central Florida Chapter “Culinarian of the Year” 2005
What special awards have you earned outside of the ACF?
- Named one of 12 “Women in Foodservice” by Restaurant Forum of Central Florida Magazine 2009
- Orange Appeal Magazine “Women to Watch” 2009
- Hyatt Regency Orlando Int’l Airport “Manager of the Year Nominee” 2002
- Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress “Manager of the Year Nominee” 2001
- Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida “Volunteer of the Year” 2001
Did you attend a culinary school?
New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, VT BA, Hospitality and Restaurant Management
The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY AS, Occupational Studies
University of Hawaii-Kapiolani Community College, Honolulu, HI AS, Food Service.
Who were your “mentor” chefs and how did they impact your career?
Russell Scott, CMC, WGMC – Chef Scott was instrumental in boosting my career in many ways. First, he encouraged me to go for my Certified Executive Chef certification and coached me throughout the whole process. Second, he supported me in running for President for our ACF Chapter. Third, he taught me how to perfect my cooking skills and the true cooking fundamentals, how to be an efficient production monster, and how to be a better manager and leader. Last but not least, he shared his passion and knowledge on taking care of one’s health and well-being.
What type of cuisine do you like to cook the most?
I enjoy cooking Spanish and Latin cuisines but the various Asian cuisines are natural to me since it’s my background.
What type of cuisine challenges you the most?
Indian cuisine because of the lengthy list of ingredients and spices used.
What is your favorite culinary television show – past or present?
The original Molto Mario-Mario Batali is an expert in Italian cooking. I enjoyed how he thoroughly explained and demonstrated the techniques on how to make various pastas and Italian specialties. I also like Ming Tsai’s East Meets West and Simply Ming.
What or who inspires your culinary creativity?
There are many Chefs that inspire my creativity. When I really like something that they make, I tweak it using my personal touches. My travels to different countries or states also inspire me. The seasons inspire me to use products that are in their peak season for their optimum flavor and quality.
Do you have a favorite cookbook and what is it?
Culinary Artistry-it’s actually a reference book that tells you what ingredients pairs well with other ingredients and flavor pairings.
Any of the Culinaria Series
Do you remember the first dish you ever made – and who did you make it for?
It was so long ago that I cannot recall what it was.
What ingredient(s) could you not live without?
Ginger, garlic, soy sauce, tomato, and basil
What is your favorite dish to cook for kids?
Dishes that are healthy for them such as make your own taco or grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables.
Who was the most important person you ever cooked for?
I’m providing a list here. I actually privately cooked for professional golfer Ernie Ells and his family and Bon Jovi’s drummer Tico Torres and his family while vacationing in the Bahamas. During my tenure at Isleworth, I cooked for many Executives, professional athletes, and celebrities including Clarence Otis-CEO of Darden Restaurants, Rick Goings-CEO of Tupperware, Lothar Eistein-Partner, Peabody Hotel, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Paula Creamer, Jameer Nelson, Michael Jordan, and Newt Gingrich to name a few.
What was your best day ever in your culinary career?
My best day ever has to be the day I was offered the Executive Chef position at the Hilton and when I received my Certified Executive Chef certification. Also days when everything goes right: smooth shift, all banquets goes out on time, all restaurant food goes out in a timely manner, staff are doing what they’re supposed to do, customers are happy with the food that has been prepared for them, and I still love my craft after numerous days of 14-15 hour shifts.
What do you think is “the next big trend” in food?
Sustainability, sourcing local, and children’s nutrition will be big for a couple of years.
What advice do you have for new culinarians and chefs entering the field?
Our industry is very demanding. You need to have the passion for the craft of cooking, be able to endure the environmental conditions in the kitchen, be open minded to learning and to be coached, and have confidence in yourself and your skills.