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Meet Nicolas Alcala of Cocina Sagrada

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicolas Alcala.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I believe in doing more than I believe in talking. Instead of finishing my degree, I commanded a team of 200 people to make The Cosmonaut, one of the first transmedia experiences. It was licensed under creative commons and crowdfunded by 5000 people, raising more than half a million dollars.

In the process, I directed a feature film and 36 short films, received international awards, wrote a book and gave more than a 100 talks on 4 continents, I learned how to write. How to create compelling visuals. How to reach audiences and engage with them. How to build beautiful products. And, also, I failed a lot. And then failed some more and after that, I learned to fail faster and better.

But, honestly, these are just the fireworks that make the headlines. What truly matters to me is to wonder people. To create magic. That’s the reason I tell stories and why I do what I do. Recently, I was selected among 79 other beautiful minds from 44 countries to be part of Singularity University Graduate Programme, a university created by Google and NASA along with Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil and also, the World Economic Forum asked me to be part of its network of young global talents called Global Shapers.

In 2011 I had been editing my film for months, and I felt the need to do something creative, but that could be started in the morning and completed in the evening.

Flashback to ten years before that moment where a 12-year-old is for the first time faced with a dilemma: Food or Film? He chooses a film, but the passion for cooking that he has learned from his mother never goes away.

So while I finished the film I decided to start a secret restaurant on the weekends, inspired by the Cuban “Paladares”. Only by invitation, we ended up having a waiting list of a hundred people for more than two years. The whole concept orbited around food as an experience and storytelling around the ingredients and the people.

Now fast forward to 6 months ago, where I decide to quit as CEO of my second company, a successful virtual reality studio, and finally pursue my passion for cooking.

Hungry for learning new things, I created a new playground: Cocina Sagrada. A place to merge storytelling and food. To create rituals around the table. To add layers of stories to how you explain a dish, to what’s written on the menu, to the whole immersive experience that an elevated dinner should be.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Life is as easy as you want to make it. It’s always a struggle, so it really just depends on how you approach those struggles and what you are ready to learn from them.

I can say I have learned A LOT. It was tough, but also incredibly rewarding and fun.

Cocina Sagrada – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Cocina Sagrada is a collective of versatile storytellers, experience designers, musicians, chefs and artists putting all our passion for immersive experiences at the service of food. We help Chef’s around the world to craft the stories of their dishes and design better experiences for their guests.

What’s written in the menu or in your check? What does it tell you beyond a list of ingredients? How can we add stories and turn a simple dinner into an immersive experience? Is the background music part of the experience, carefully selected to create emotion?

Working hand in hand with the Chefs, we use our own Design Thinking Methodology to thresh all the story-layers of the restaurant experience and transmute a delicate but ordinary dinner into an extraordinary experience.

We are in the business of creating happiness for others. Crafting incredible experiences that will open their hearts and senses open and that they will never forget.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Premiering my first feature film after six years of working was definitely a highlight.

Premiering another two of my pieces at the Biennale Internationale di Venezia, one of the most important film festivals in the world, was another. But where I definitely find more pleasure and I’m more proud is when I feed people. When I see their faces enjoying the food and the experience, for as simple as this is.

After building big things, I’ve learned to find more pleasure in the smallest ones.

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