Saturday, September 10, 2011

In the kitchen with Chef Gui

Gui Alinat is one of Tampa Bay's most talented and respected chefs. Raised and schooled in the South of France, his culinary training and consulting services are in high demand. Here, he talks to Delicious Tampa Bay about French food, favorite Fall recipes and his forthcoming TV series 'History? It's Food!'.

When did your love of food first surface?

I grew up in the South of France so I had a natural passion for food. In France, all family reunions revolve around food and wine and I was completely immersed in that from a very young age. Many people in my family were exceptional cooks. Some were hunters (wild boar, squab, pheasant), others were foragers (porcini mushrooms, black trumpets, chanterelles) and, of course, we had our fishermen (craw fish and rainbow trout) - and boy did we have ways to prepare all of that! My favorite meal growing up was flambadou, which involves grilling a jack rabbit and splashing it with burning (literally) fat.

Can you describe your family's cooking style?

I would call it rustic and traditional - most of the meals were very healthy. Being in Provence, dishes revolved around fresh fish, vegetables, estate-grown olive oils, garlic and wine. Another of my favorites is Bouillabaisse, a fisherman's stew that really can't be created anywhere outside of the Mediterranean basin because the fish used are not found anywhere else.

When you moved to Tampa, you turned to teaching at the Art Institute of Tampa and Jacobson Culinary Arts Academy in Tarpon Springs. What do you love most about teaching?

I wear many chef hats. I own a boutique catering company, which caters fine events all over Tampa Bay. I have been doing that for the last 11 years. I started to teach three years ago and the best thing about that is, I get to interact with so many young culinarians.

How do you think the food scene has changed in Tampa over the last 10 years?

I don't like this question - it makes me feel like a veteran! Seriously though, the food scene has changed a lot. It's quite amazing in fact. Ten years ago, people barely knew what creme brulee was. Now, foodies know their stuff and dine on crispy pork belly, house-made charcuterie and blue point oysters. There is much more awareness when it comes to craftsmanship and food products. And of course, the trend now is local and sustainable food so much effort has been made by chefs, farmers and the public. Good times.

As well as teaching and running your own catering and consulting business, you are a food writer. Can you tell us a little about your book The Chef's Repertoire? 

I wrote for The St. Petersburg Times and on my own blog - mostly about food plating. My first book, which was published in 2010, is designed to help people increase their culinary knowledge. The Chef's Repertoire provides quick and easy access to 1100 named dishes including their origins, ingredients and cooking techniques. It is an inventory of classic dishes and is arranged in such a way that makes them easy to find and reproduce. In other words, it enhances your creativity in the kitchen. Now, I'm writing my second book.

Can you tell us a little about your new TV show and when we can expect it to hit our screens?

The TV show is called 'History? It's food!'. Every episode sees a historian, an event planner and a chef (that's me!) get together and recreate famous food events exactly as they were in history. We investigate the great feasts of Napoleon, Cleopatra, Thomas Jefferson and prepare the recipes and events ourselves. It's lots of fun and will be airing on a major food network in Spring 2012.

Do you have a favorite Fall recipe?

Aigo Boulido (garlic and sage soup) is a very simple and traditional recipe from the South of France. It's rustic and relies on the quality of the ingredients. Choose the best estate olive oil, organic eggs, sea salt or 'fleur de sel', freshly ground pepper and ultra fresh herbs. In Provence, this is known as a healthy, medicinal soup. The high concentration of Vitamin C present in garlic and the natural benefits of sage make it a favorite for birthing mothers, stomach aches and hangovers!

You will need:

- Eight cups of water
- 30 garlic cloves
- 10 fresh sage leaves, tied in a bunch
- Salt and pepper
- Six eggs
- 12 crouton rounds, made from sourdough baguette and toasted
- Two tablespoons of fresh, Italian parsley, chopped
- One bay leaf
- One sprig of thyme
- Six tablespoons of fruity extra virgin olive oil

In a stock pot over high heat, combine the water, garlic and sage. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bunch of sage leaves. With an electric hand mixer, blend the water and garlic together right in the stock pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Off the heat, infuse the Italian parsley, bay leaf and thyme for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme. 

Reduce the heat so the liquid simmers gently. One at a time, break the eggs into a small bowl and slip into the soup. Cook for two minutes. The yolks must remain soft. 

Place two croutons at the bottom of each soup bowl. Remove the eggs from the soup and place in each bowl. Serve the soup over the eggs and croutons. Drizzle with olive oil and serve at once. 

Thanks so much for Chef Gui - this recipe sounds perfect for Fall sniffles and winter colds. If you have your own question for Gui, you can visit his website to take advantage of the 'Ask the Chef' section. His fabulous book 'The Chef's Repertoire' is available in bookshops and on Amazon. You can also follow Chef on Twitter for sneak peeks and delicious recipes. 

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