By Catharine L. Kaufman
“Jeopardy” Category: “Famous Chefs”
And the answer is:
“This French-born chef has joined the ranks of the culinary world glitterati as Executive Chef of La Jolla’s iconic Marine Room, is co-author of the award-winning “Flying Pans: Two Chefs, One World,” is a radio and TV personality, and is soon to be inducted into the Maitres Cuisiniers de France (aka the Master Chefs of France.)
Who is Chef Bernard Guillas?
Raised by his grandma Marie Ange, a pioneering, organic farmer and cook on Jersey, a Channel Island between France and England, Bernard Guillas became his grandmother’s able apprentice in creating fruit preserves and hazelnut desserts, minding the livestock, churning butter, making yogurt and handling other culinary chores. Bernard Guillas (Photo/Gregory Bertolini)
With a family that included farming parents, butchers and bakers, his future career in food preparation seemed to have been destiny since “everything revolved around the table,” he laughed.
Now, decades later, Chef Bernard’s life still revolves around the table, this time at The Marine Room, La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, and The Shores where he has held the culinary reigns for the past 16 years as executive chef.
He is guided by his grandma’s philosophy and world view to this day. “As chefs our responsibility is to be good caretakers of our oceans and land.” That includes humane animal husbandry practices, producing natural organic beef and hormone- and antibiotic-free poultry from free-range chicks, and buying seasonal fruits and veggies from local farmers. Chef Bernard said it’s encouraging to see kids behind the stands at farmers markets where they acquire a taste for fresh land-to-table foods.
The master chef waxes poetic comparing a painter’s use of color on a canvas to a chef’s use of spices in the kitchen.
“When both finish their masterpieces, you have a joy for the art and the canvas of flavor explodes,” he said. Chef Bernard urges San Diegans to grow herb gardens at home, and recommends planting such staples as sage, rosemary, thyme, lemongrass and mint.
“The fragrance in the house will make your neighbors cry (with pleasure),” he joked. More importantly, “When you buy fresh herbs, the root is not attached, and the herbs lose their essential oils.” He beams over the multi-tasking mint that’s great in salads, pestos and mojitos, and is equally enamored with lemongrass and Iranian saffron, “the best in the world.”
The chef launches into culinary fantasizing about wild prawns from Baja California, fresh Dungeness crab, wild caught King Salmon and diver scallops marinating in a tangy fragrant sauce of tangerine juice, lemongrass, saffron, butter and white wine.
Besides his toque, Chef Bernard also wears comfortably the hats of teacher, author and dinner party host at home for family and friends. For example, you can find Chef Bernard teaching a class at Macy’s in Mission Valley thrice a month ($5 a class), the proceeds donated to local food banks. He also teaches a master chef class at the Marine Room that includes a three-course dinner paired with wines ($65 a class, MarineRoom.com for details).