Chef Luis Morales presents a dish at our WeHo restaurant

Culinary inspiration with Chef Luis Morales

Food always tastes better when it’s made by someone who cares about their craft. When a chef understands craft, he or she not only understands how to prepare the highest-quality meal, but also how to wield atmosphere and imagery and music and other sensory elements to best please his or her eaters. Luis Morales, Head Chef at The Cavatina Restaurant, will exceed all of your expectations, for the reasons above and in many other ways. I had a blast sitting down with Chef Morales and hearing about his journey to our restaurant here at the Sunset Marquis Hotel. 

Early Years 

Chef Morales grew up in a big family and in a home that centralized its activities around the kitchen table. His homework and painting happened there, as well as all of his mother’s cooking. Chef Morales remembers, “I was always around [cooking]. I was always snacking. I always loved food; I always love eating and trying different things.” His mother made solely Costa Rican food, their neighborhood was Italian-American, and his father loved Chinese Cantonese food. These early influences would come to impact his broad and creative approach to cuisine. 

At twelve years old, Chef Morales picked up his first cookbook (which no one in his family knew how it had gotten there). He asked his mom to pick up the ingredients, and he started playing around in the kitchen. In high school, he got his first job at Regina Pizzeria at Faneuil Hall in Boston, and he credits that restaurant for his first experience of the “adrenaline of the kitchen,” which he still loves today. However at the time, Chef Morales wasn’t sure cooking was what he wanted to do professionally.

One night after a party, watching a late night commercial for culinary school, it hit him unequivocally: Luis Morales wanted to go to culinary school. So, he did. After school, the chefs were being pushed toward corporate jobs, but Chef Morales wanted something more creative. He got a call out of the blue to join Lydia Shire’s team to create a modern, innovative, new Italian restaurant, and it seemed like the perfect fit. 

Chefs Luis Morales and Michael SchlowWorking with Michael Schlow 

The guiding principle behind Chef Morales’s career has been the fostering and stimulation of his artistry. After cooking in D.C. and then back again in Boston, he was looking for his next move, when he got his first call from Michael Schlow. 

He remembers their interests immediately aligning over the concept of “a bigger city restaurant, really focusing on discipline and culture.” A couple great conversations later, and Schlow’s initial Sous-Chef for his new restaurant was not working out. So, Chef Morales joined Michael Schlow and began what would become a long, mutually beneficial partnership and friendship. 

Schlow and Morales worked in Boston together for six years on the restaurant, Radius, then Chef Morales moved to Italy to ready himself to be the Head Chef at their new Italian venture, Via Matta. However, after some years there, Chef Morales again felt pulled to do something new – a new restaurant or go back to the visual arts? 

To Cook or Not to Cook

Sixteen years ago, Chef Morales was debating with himself: “I wanted to try something that was a little more lasting, you know… Because you finish creating a beautiful dish, whether it’s very plated and very intricate, or it’s rustic, as soon as you’re done, it starts to deteriorate. And then, you give it to somebody and they eat it, and it’s gone.” 

Though whenever Morales left the restaurant world, “I missed the energy of the restaurant, the buzz, the adrenaline, working with a team of people to create something. Not just food, but to create an experience.” 

Then, twelve years ago, Chef Morales and Michael Schlow officially teamed up as partners and began opening lots of new restaurants and consulting. Chef Morales finally had the flexibility of not being tied down to one cuisine, and he was finally contented with the high level of creativity he had on a daily basis. He knew that the restaurant world was his place: “This was my social network. This is my life. I’ll do this, and I’ll love it.”

Chef Michael Schlow and Luis MoralesThe Sunset Marquis

Chef Morales has been at the Sunset Marquis for a year and a half, and he answered immediately when I asked about his experience, “Love it.” What he went on to say about his experience at the hotel needs no curation by me; he said, “I would be bored if I was in a hotel that didn’t have the size property that this has. Didn’t have the venues, all the different areas and opportunities that we can do special things in, like the spa garden, the boardroom, the villa pool, the main pool, this restaurant – we’ve turned it into different things – the outside patio, and all the other gardens where we have sit-down dinners. There’s a lot of flexibility here [where] you can have a lot of fun.” That’s exactly what we like to hear.

Eat With Us

In my experience, Chef Morales excels at every culinary opportunity given to him. If you haven’t experienced his expertise first-hand, we look forward to seeing you at our Cavatina Restaurant as soon as you can get here. 

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