Executive Chef Bernard Guillas recently participated in the 25th MSU Billings Wine and Food Festival teaching a class entitled Spring Fling – Sharing the Love. The title of the class embodied the spirit of Guillas, a Frenchman living La Jolla near San Diego, California. The man exuded charm packaged with passion for food and living. As the head culinary leader for the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and Marine Room restaurant, Guillas not only impressed the locals, especially the women with his multiple air kisses, but also with the art he created on the plate.
This was Guillas’ fourth time at the festival. For the 25th celebration, five chefs were invited to cook for the Monday Night Guest Chef Dinner at the Northern Hotel. Guillas teamed up with David Maplethorpe of the Rex, Carl Kurokawa of Juliano’s, Kevin Davis of Steelhead Diner, Orfeo and Blue Acre in Seattle, and Nick Steen of the Northern Hotel.
Guillas’ dish was an appetizer – Maine Diver Scallop Crudo composed of Asian Pear, Caviar Pearls, Mint Crystals, Opal Basil Flowers, Smoked Sea Salt, Argan Oil. “So the bottom line is I wanted to create a dish that is a little bit different, represented San Diego and pushed a little bit the envelope,” Guillas shared.
His dish required tweezers to transfer his ingredients to the plate. The written description did not fully encompass the final presentation as Guillas added extra ingredients to the dish and received some resistance from the other chefs helping him out, who expressed, “Are you really going to add one more thing?” Guillas responded, “I say yeah we are going to add Thai ginger salt which is really, really neat, and then I added some fennel pollen crystals. To the argon oil I added a little bit hazelnut.” To top it all off, he sprinkled some sea grass from San Diego as a final signature flourish.
Guillas’ latest book is Flying Pans: The Catch, co-authored with his Chef de Cuisine, Ron Oliver shares their passion and knowledge on fish. “We wanted to focus on the most mismanaged part of our planet which is our oceans. We did a lot of study. We did a lot of research. It is about culture, cuisine, travel but also analyzing beautiful sea creatures and telling the world what you can do to enjoy them and to preserve them for future generations,” Guillas explained.
His first book, Flying Pans: Two Chefs, One World chronicled the travels of the two chefs and received an IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Cookbook Award for Best First Book.
In his home cooking class, Guillas demonstrated three recipes: Maine Diver Scallop Crudo, Five Spice Plum Wine Braised Shortribs and Butter Caramel Apricot Upside-Down Cake.
Guillas recommendation for good seafood is, “Do not torture your ingredients, let them speak and it means that just take that beautiful seafood that has been plucked from local waters and then just showcase it in a way you are able to keep the complete integrity and flavors and texture.”
Guillas was born on a small island between France and England. His parents ran a dairy farm. At 6 months he was sent to live with his grandmother in Brittany and stayed with her until he was 7. “With grandma it was garden to table or nothing,” Guillas conveyed because the current farm to table movement was always a part of his life. As a teenager, Guillas figured out that baking would endear him to girls. “My chocolate soufflé went up and my confidence went up,” Guillas boasted.
His culinary career began when he apprenticed with George Paineau at Le Bretagne Restaurant in Questembert, France. Of the experience, Guillas said, “I was immersed into what was really great food and what a really great way to learn the best technique and the best way to shop and the best way to know what you are looking for.”
French Guiana was his next stop, followed by a move to Washington, D. C. where he worked under Pierre Chambrin who was the chef for the Bush and Clinton administrations. Four years later, Guillas moved to San Diego to work at the US Grant Hotel. He has been Chef at the Marine Room for 23 years.
Of the years, Guillas said, “It has been a journey of learning and a journey of passion and journey that has taken me around the world and the world is beautiful.”
Guillas recently traveled to Cape Town, South Africa. He visited the Eziko Cooking and Catering school. One lucky student, who jumped at the chance to spend time with the master, shadowed Guillas as he prepared a dinner to help raise funds for culinary education.
At the school, which Guillas said had all of three burners, he learned to make “pap,” a white cornmeal that he described as, “very very tight and you form a ball when it is very, very hot, flatten it.” The disc was then stuffed with zucchini and onions, rolled into ball, and then roasted. He also learned to make a goat tripe curry.
Guillas will return next year and hopes to prepare an ocean to table, farm to table dinner. Of the experience, he said, “I like to bring people together on this planet earth. If you are able to give back, if you are able to make someone smile and have a good time. It is extremely important.”
Guillas shared his philosophy on food and cooking. “A chef should be a good caretaker of mother earth making sure we keep everything in balance. If you want great food, it has to be in season and it has to be seasoned properly and cooked perfectly.”
Guillas sees the plate as a canvas where he paints with fruit and vegetables. At the Marine Room, he hopes to create a memorable experience and new traditions.
For Guillas, it is always a “Spring Fling” when he can share his love of food and cooking.
Maine Diver Scallop Crudo
Tangerine, Corn, Avocado Oil, Sesame Brittle
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup butter
1 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
Heat oven at 350◦F.
Combine sesame seeds, cumin and paprika in a small bowl. Add butter and corn syrup to small saucepan over low heat. Melt. Do not boil. Set aside. Add miso and sesame oil stirring constantly. Fold in flour until well combined. Fold in sesame mixture. Drop 1 teaspoon of batter at 5-inch intervals on a Silpat lined baking sheet. Bake 5-6 minutes or until edges of brittle are lightly brown. Let cool. Transfer to wire rack.
Diver Scallop Crudo
3/4 pound diver scallops, extra-large, tendon removed
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons avocado olive
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tangerine, juiced and zested
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1/2 cup sweet corn kernel
1/3 cup roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 hot red chile pepper, seeded, veins removed, thinly diced
to taste sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely dice scallop. Place in chilled container. Gently whisk shallots, avocado oil, lemon juice, tangerine juice, zest and vinegar together in small bowl. Combine with scallop. Refrigerate 1 hour. Fold in parsley, mint, corn, tomatoes, and chile. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to serving dishes. Garnish with sesame brittle.
Bon Appetit…Executive Chef Bernard Guillas
The Marine Room, La Jolla