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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June's Featured Interview: Chef Gilbert Reyes
What made you want to become a chef?
The first time I saw a chef with his tall hat and clean, crisp white chef’s coat, I thought to myself, 'I want to be like him.' I was 20 years old and working at a hotel in the housekeeping department. The chef looked very important and impressive. One day I went to the kitchen and I observed how he orchestrated and managed his busy kitchen. I was fascinated. Now, what keeps me going, is the satisfaction I get from creating great dishes. It gives me a good feeling when I see the plates from guests come back empty. I love to create and being a chef gives me the opportunity to use my imagination, improvise, think on my feet and present plates like artwork.
What was your favorite class in culinary school?
I did not attend culinary school but learned the art of cuisine hands-on throughout my 30 years in the culinary industry. I learned on the job watching great chefs and working myself up from cold commissary to where I am now. Also, I gained extensive experience working in different types of settings, such as five diamond/five star hotels, landmark New York City restaurants, a fine-dining kosher restaurant and high volume establishments.
What is the newest trend you see emerging?
Applying science to foods, from spherification, smoking, foaming, turning liquid to solid, turning oil to powder. These are new trends that I find very exciting and which I am applying to my dishes.
What's the strangest thing we would find in your refrigerator?
Chicken feet. I make them with adobo. Simple Filipino dish, but so delicious and crunchy. Also, jackfruit, which is a cross between a mango and pear flavor.
If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Kamayan restaurant in the Philippines. In Kamayan restaurants, no utensils are used, banana leaves are used as plates and you sit at a communal table. It would bring back memories of sitting together, enjoying a feast with family and friends, while eating with your bare hands.
Is there one comfort food that you're secretly obsessed with having at home?
I can’t get enough of ube ice cream, which is an ice cream made of purple potato yam.
Which talent would you most like to have that you don't possess?
Creating pastries. Seeing a pastry chef creating a wedding cake masterpiece is really remarkable.
What's your favorite meal to cook for friends?
Korean barbeque short ribs, braised pork belly, grilled mixed vegetables glazed in balsamic syrup and steamed baby bok choy.
Who was your mentor as you were becoming a chef?
Chef Michael Minard who hired me and introduced me to the cooking industry. He guided, encouraged and mentored me. He trained and set me up for success. He was the chef with the tall hat and clean, crisp, white chef’s coat.
If you could cook for and dine with anyone, who would that be?
Chef Emeril Lagasse. Although I never met him, he seems like a down to earth and funny guy. I am pretty sure I would enjoy dining with him and picking his brain about cooking.
More about Chef Reyes:
Gilbert Reyes is the Chef de Cuisine/Executive Chef at Columbia University Medical Center, which provides exceptional in-house and outside catering for special events, some of which have been attended by heads of state, authors and politicians. Starting at the age of 20 as a prep cook, Chef Gilbert is a self-taught chef who, motivated by a desire to create fine cuisine, learned on the job from great chefs including Chefs Larry Forgione, Christopher Lee and Bernd Mueller. Throughout his 30 year career in the restaurant and hotel industry, he has worked for the Marriott Financial Center, Orlando World Marriott Resort, and prestigious 4 star 4 diamond hotels in NYC, such as The Benjamin Hotel and The New York Palace Hotel, a favored destination for world leaders and other attendees of the United Nations meetings. He has worked in The Tavern on the Green and The Prime Grill Steakhouse, a kosher restaurant that ages its meats on the premises. He participated in hosting The James Beard dinner and, while at the Tavern on the Green, fed thousands of NYC marathon runners at the finish line. Chef Gilbert loves to experiment with different types of fusion cuisine and incorporating old school with a modern twist. He is always up for a challenge.
For an interview with Kevin Dugan of the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA), CLICK HERE.
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