Since debuting in Orlando in 2017, the Seven Seas Food Festival has been one of the premier events for SeaWorld Orlando. That is thanks in part to the groundbreaking dishes of former Executive Chef Héctor Colón introduced each year. With Colón gone, the fest is the perfect place for SeaWorld's newest chef to make his debut.
Alessio Selleri. Before joining SeaWorld late last year, the Italian-born chef served as an Executive Chef of New Concepts for Tampa and St. Augustine's Columbia Restaurant.
At Columbia, Selleri oversaw their new Italian concept that opened at the height of the pandemic. Before that, he had stints as the Fine Dining Resort Executive Chef at Marco Beach Ocean Resort and as the Executive Chef for the Waldorf Astoria Bonnet Creek.
While he spoke positively about his time at each position, Selleri seemed especially excited to tackle theme park dining.
“I like to be very busy and always moving. In theme parks, there’s concepts from fine dining to fast food service," he told Orlando Weekly. "So many banquets and events. And you always see so many happy people are the park, and then there’s the amazing animal interaction for which SeaWorld is perfect.”
return this year, but the more than one dozen booths also include numerous originals inspired by Selleri’s previous work.
“Obviously my background, especially my Italian and European background, shows up in our menus," explained Selleri, pointing to the multiple new European-inspired dishes and booths."It has some European, Italian and French flair.”
With their smaller sizes and tasting menu style sample lanyards, food festivals are typically places for those less adventurous to try new things. That won’t be the case for those visiting the Seven Seas Food Festival this year. Despite his impressive resume and proven talent, this year’s Food Festival seems safe with none of the camera-ready signature dishes that typically defined Colón’s menus.
Admittedly, this year’s event isn’t exactly what Selleri had in mind, with supply chain issues forcing some menu changes. Still, the festival features niche products not typical of theme park fare, from olive oils and salts imported from Italy to Sea Urchin Aioli. With global supply chain issues not likely to be alleviated anytime soon, Selleri turned to local options with many seafood options coming from Florida’s Gulf Coast. Among the more than 75 wine and cocktail options are featured many local distilleries and breweries.
A newly introduced crispy Reuben egg roll, a reimagined jerk chicken slider, and an updated poke bowl were among the highlights during a recent media preview. This year’s event features new booths, or markets as SeaWorld calls them, for Ireland and Sicily, plus booths for local wines, a whiskey tasting, and another focused on California and Florida beers.
The Seven Season Food Festival at SeaWorld Orlando runs Thursdays through Sundays through May 8.