When you speak with chefs Bernard Guillas and Ron Oliver, it’s difficult to determine which they most enjoy: creating their global menu for the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, or traveling the world to bring ideas to their kitchen.
“The discovery of new culture, cuisine and customs are the ingredients that enrich my personal life,” explained Executive Chef Guillas, a native of Brittany, France. “Life is a path of discovery, from new ingredients to forging new friendships.”
Oliver echoed those sentiments.
“Traveling allows me to make new friends,” said Chef de Cuisine Oliver, who has garnered eight Best Restaurant in San Diego Awards for the Marine Room.
“When I’m traveling is when I actually have the most free time, as opposed to being at home when I’m always so busy. So some of my closest friends are the ones I’ve made while traveling overseas and still keep in touch with.”
The veteran chef-globetrotters have amassed an amazing array of recipes which appear regularly on Marine Room menus, as well as in their newly published cookbook, “Flying Pans: Two Chefs, One World.” The title refers to the many air miles the chefs have accumulated jetting to dozens of countries.
Page through their user-friendly cookbook, printed on high-quality, heavy-stock paper, and you’ll find that each recipe is placed on a double truck (two pages that lay flat). There is a mouthwatering color photo on one page and the recipe on the other (the stunning photo illustrations were done by New York-based photographer Gregory Bertolini, a friend of the chefs).
“We created the book in the same way we create a dish — by focusing on detail and utilizing the finest ingredients,” Guillas said.
Ingredients and directions for each part of the recipe appear in separate columns for easy reading, and the story of acquiring the recipe — a mini-travelogue — appears above.
“We both like countries that are off the beaten path, rich in culture and history, and whose people show overwhelming hospitality,” Guillas said. “For me, (my favorite) is the Republic of Georgia, where in the central market of Tbilisi, I was transported to ancient times watching a butcher cutting beef on an oak stump with an axe.”
Oliver’s favorite country is Turkey, “where my wife and I were picked up by a stranger we met through the Internet and taken to a restaurant that serves true Ottoman cuisine, including a dessert of candied eggplant and soft-shell walnuts. The stranger is now a lifelong friend.”
The cookbook-travelogue contains recipes from 41 countries, including the United States. Think cast-iron skillet Southern peach cobbler with peanut brittle and coconut ice cream.
“One Saturday every June,” Oliver writes, “the quaint, tranquil town of Trenton, South Carolina, celebrates the harvest at their annual Peach Festival. I discovered this event during my first month in culinary school and imagined returning one day when I had a family. Ten years later, on a sunny day, we arrived.”
As for the exquisitely delicious recipes from other countries, here is a sampling: Chicken pistachio meat loaf with gingered tomato jam and pear frisee salad from the Czech Republic; zaatar-spiced swordfish kebab with bulgur salad and eggplant tahini from Turkey; rack of lamb renaissance with spring vegetables and ouzo herb sauce from Greece; lobster spring roll with guava soy dipping sauce from Vietnam; and Mildura caramelized apricot cake with clover-honey fromage blanc from Australia.
“Tasting native foods allows you to connect with the locals and strike up a dialogue,” Oliver said.
“The best place to experience native foods is at the central farmers markets,” Guillas added. “Be adventurous; the locals will really appreciate you if you show an interest… It creates an unforgettable experience that you will recount in your memory and cherish.”
San Diego County, too, has all the ingredients to become a culinary destination, Guillas believes.
“There are 3,000 farms and 46 farmers markets here. We should be showcasing local products. The Marine Room uses 80 percent local products. Sometimes we have 300 people here. That’s a lot of produce.”
The Marine Room, at 2000 Spindrift Drive in La Jolla, is open at 4 p.m. for happy hour; and 6 p.m. for dinner. The chefs welcome those with special dietary needs.
“We have a big board in the kitchen listing ingredients to be avoided for celiac disease and various allergies,” Guillas said. “We’ve been doing that for a long time.”
You can order “Flying Pans,” which won two coveted awards from 2011 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards, from Amazon.com or twochefsoneworld.com.
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Filed Under: Hit the Road