Kitchen Shrink: Give it up for our globetrotting gourmet

Catharine L. Kaufman
Catharine L. Kaufman

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, for details).

His motto is: “Enjoy the journey through the kitchen, preparing seasonal and simple meals with no fighting of flavors on the plate.”

For home entertaining, Chef Bernard suggests an intimate, monthly get-together with a potluck theme that takes the pressure off the host. “Someone can do a side dish, someone else does dessert or wine, and this makes it fun.”

With his Ron Oliver chef de cuisine at the Marine Room, Guillas’ produced an award-winning cookbook, “Flying Pans: Two Chefs, One World.” Their inspiration came two years ago when the pair playfully looked at an Atlas, surveyed the 50 countries they collectively visited, and decided to collaborate on a cookbook. “Flying Pans” was received with flying colors as Cookbook of the Year at the San Diego Book Awards, and was one of the Top 10 at BookExpo America in New York.

Chef Bernard said humbly that his accolades continue to amaze him — especially when he received a call from Paris about his selection to the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was an apprentice,” he said. Only two other chefs in the U.S. will be inducted into this culinary hall of fame in Paris this spring. Chef Bernard has a dual celebration — coming home to see his family, and receiving this astronomic, gastronomic honor.

Here is the monkfish recipe prepared by Grandma Marie and young Bernard, a symphony of flavors and exquisite vegetables. Bon appétit!

Monkfish Bretonne

Wilted Vegetables

1 large leek, white part only

2 carrots, washed, peeled

1/2 pound fingerling potatoes, washed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup sauvignon blanc

3 tablespoons crème fraîche

18 medium asparagus, peeled

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Monkfish (Photo/Gregory Bertolini)

Cut leek and carrots into 3-inch long matchsticks. Wash leeks. Transfer to colander. Quarter potatoes lengthwise. Melt butter in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 3 minutes, turning occasionally. Add leeks and carrots. Cook 1 minute. Add sauvignon blanc and crème fraîche. Bring to simmer. Place asparagus on top. Cover. Cook 2 minutes or until asparagus are al dente. Turn off heat. Adjust seasoning.


1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider

1/4 cup minced shallots

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 gala apples, cored, diced

2 tablespoons apple brandy

4 6-ounce monkfish fillets, boneless, skinless

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 F. Add cider vinegar, apple cider, shallots, thyme sprig, bay leaf and cracked pepper to saucepan. Reduce liquid to syrupy consistency. Add chicken stock, cream and apples. Bring to simmer. Reduce by half. Using immersion blender, puree until smooth. Strain through fine sieve. Return to saucepan. Stir in brandy. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm. Season monkfish with salt, pepper and thyme. Melt butter in deep skillet over medium high heat until golden brown. Roast monkfish 2 minutes on each side. Place skillet in oven. Cook 3 minutes or until monkfish is opaque in center and slightly underdone.


4 slices apple wood smoked bacon, cooked crisp, warm

4 sprigs thyme

Arrange vegetables in center of warm serving plate. Top with monkfish. Spoon apple cider sauce around. Garnish with bacon and thyme sprig. Serves 4.



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