This week, I attended a cooking demonstration and 3-course dinner plated and created by the famous chefs of the Marine Room. The landmark restaurant sits on La Jolla’s sandy beach, inviting the tides to lick its windows. Wednesday night had a dramatic backdrop of storm clouds behind a group of almost 50 guests seated and swirling complimentary glasses of Sauvignon Blanc.
I was able to talk with Chef Bernard Guillas before the demonstration. Like an artist, he described the canvas (a white plate) he and Chef Ron Oliver would be painting (filling with food). The meal’s theme was “Hunting Games” celebrating the hunting season and the season of comfort food. The appropriately named sommelier, Lisa Redwine, worked with Guillas to hand-pick a selection of red wines to pair with each course.
It was not a hands-on cooking class, but the chefs threw out a wealth of information. Every person in the room could watch the chefs slice, saute and spice the food easily in the angled mirrors on the ceiling. Like a well-rehearsed comedy act, they interacted with the audience well, playing up their contrasting personalities. Charismatic Chef Bernard bantered and winked while the soft-spoken Chef Ron quipped back with dry humor.
Oliver, fresh off a flight from Italy, and Guillas, tired from very busy month, were a lively performance pair. After entrancing the audience with the aromas of their cooking, the chefs retreated into the kitchen and we were led into the dining room.
The meal we ate sang with rich tones. Shreds of duck confit harmonized with a melody of vegetables and paired magnificently with a Pinot Noir. After the first chorus of flavors, a beautiful plate of peppered buffalo, wild mushrooms and a gateau of root vegetables trumpeted its arrival beside a big, bold Cab. Then the desert softly played its course with mellow nuances of caramel, cream and a shortbread cookie sprinkled in sea salt next to a strong Madeira.
Buffalo, a lean meat cooked medium rare by chef recommendation, melted tenderly in my mouth. “Better than a filet Mignon,” a lady mused to my left. I felt like I had been treated to a dinner for royalty, and yet the cooking demonstration had emphasized the simplicity of cooking the meal. Every attendee was given the recipe for each dish; as a novice cook myself, by the end of the cooking lesson I did feel prepared and encouraged to tackle a raw duck of my own (thanks to the easy directions and a clear demonstration).
“We wanted to make sure that it’s easy for everyone to do. They can really prepare it way ahead, and at the same time, it’s very low maintenance,” Guillas said.
Food is considered by these men to be the international language of the world. Oliver said if this meal were speaking to him, it would have communicated a sense of community. Guillas said love. Both chefs have a passion for sharing food with friends, buying local, organic food, maintaining sustainability and upholding the values of the farm-to-table movement.
“I had those values before becoming a chef,” said Oliver.
Consumer responsibility was another aspect emphasized by both cooks, who both maintain healthy relationships with farmer’s markets around San Diego. For example, the chefs warned us not to buy buffalo meat frozen; instead, they said to seek out a local butcher and to get fresh meat like from the buffalo farm in Ramona, CA. With over 50 farmer’s markets in the County of San Diego, consumers have little excuse not support their local community.
“Our cuisine reflects our travel” said Guillas, speaking for himself and Oliver. A self-published, award-winning cookbook Flying Pans: Two Chefs, One World published in 2011, follows their extensive travels. The book illustrates their explorations of the world’s farmer’s markets, cultures and cuisines with beautiful photography and personal anecdotes. After 14 years of working together and a habit for finishing each other’s sentences, their relationship has “lasted longer than most marriages in California,” Guillas joked.
What to look forward to from the Marine Room:
High Tide Breakfast Buffet
Cooking Demonstration and 3-course Dinner
Wednesday February 5 – week before Valentine’s Day
Reserve your spot now for any Marine room events by making an online reservation or by calling (866) 644-2351. The Blue Book is happy to feature interesting restaurants in La Jolla and the surrounding coastal communities.
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