Alex Guarnaschelli - March 2020

MONTHLY INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

Hear from industry leaders about their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. Learn more about the people behind the foods and dishes you know and love - and others you SHOULD know and love. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.

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March 2020 Edition

Featured Chef: 

Alex Guarnaschelli

March 2020 Edition

Did you want to become a chef because you enjoyed it or did you feel destined to become a chef, because your mom and dad spent a lot of time in the kitchen? I became a chef because I truly enjoyed it. I graduated college with an Art History major before moving to France to start my culinary journey. Being in a restaurant kitchen felt natural to me and I haven’t looked back since. I think that idea began because I grew up in a house where great cooking was valued, for sure. 


At what age did you realize you wanted to be a chef? 22.

What’s the greatest fear you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today? Understanding failure is part of the process. Realizing that what I set out to do doesn’t always happen. Sometimes a path leads somewhere else that’s even better.

How do you think traveling changed or improved your cooking techniques? Traveling is an opportunity I welcome very much to learn about different cuisines and local, seasonal ingredients. It inspired me to learn about culture. All cultures have similarities; everyone has a form of bread or starch, for example. Lots have different forms of dumplings. Learning about and experiencing those varied dishes informs my cooking.

As the sous chef at La Butte Chaillot, what was your experience like? It was tough, but I was up for the challenge. It was exactly what I needed at that specific time in my life. I had spent a number of years with Guy Savoy and learned a lot about cooking. He knew I needed managerial experience. I didn’t have any at that time.

Did you feel it was difficult to gain the respect of the young male cooks serving under you? It was difficult to gain respect, period. As a American female in a male dominated industry in a foreign country, I sensed that I needed to work that much harder to prove myself and my worth.
 
After working in France for such a long time, did it feel strange working in an American restaurant? No. I was homesick for America and was particularly happy to work in one in California because of all the amazing produce. Ingredients are the spark plug in a chef’s “car”.

What were some of the major differences between working in France and the U.S.? Restaurants are all the same in so many ways. Each one is a unique family. It’s a group of people that sign on for an experience. Like the cast of a Broadway play. You hope for a long run!

You have said that you are passionate about American ingredients and dishes that tip their hat to food history in some way. What is your favorite recipe that includes ingredients that have this association to history? I have such a deep appreciation and respect for American ingredients and local farmers. It's such a priority to me when creating recipes and sourcing ingredients for my restaurant, Butter. A lot of my favorite recipes involve Americana. Parker house Rolls. Banana Betty. A great Cobb salad. Lobster Newberg.

With all these new trends coming out, do you find it hard to stick to the culinary traditions you have learned? Or do you find combining new techniques with old customs fun? It's a combination of both. I will always utilize and cherish my culinary traditions while throwing in a few new techniques. Food is supposed to be fun and elicit a feeling.