Meet Chef Brett Gauthier
Formerly with the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, Chef Brett Gauthier's new position is with the Ralph Brennan Group in New Orleans, La., as executive pastry chef. Gauthier talks to the magazine about his niche, his process and the Ralph Brennan Group. Don't miss the end when he shares one of his popular recipes – Rice Pudding.
SHM Traveler: Provide some details about your background. Have you always been a pastry chef? At what point did you realize this niche/route was for you?
Gauthier: Food has always been a part of my life. Before my first job, cooking television programs sparked the fire of my culinary career. When my parents saw this, they encouraged me to cook at home, later to find a cooking job and then attend a culinary school. I smile to think of the early meals I prepared at home. My choice to study pastry arts was sudden as I had only a little experience with breads and desserts, but I knew art was always something I enjoyed doing. I felt pastry would offer a way to express this.
SHM Traveler: What drew you to New Orleans and the Ralph Brennan Group? Why this particular destination and company?
Gauthier: I was introduced to the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group by the Executive Chef of Redfish Grill, Chef Michael Gottlieb, whom I had worked with in the past. RBRG felt like a great opportunity for growth for me and New Orleans is such a culinary city, so I was a fitting decision to join the team. Here, I am responsible for desserts all of the restaurants, as well as Ralph Brennan Catering & Events, a challenge I have been preparing for my whole career. I am drawn to the company because each restaurant in the group may be different, but the principle of keeping the food honest and wholesome remains the same.
SHM Traveler: New Orleans is a top foodie destination and perhaps the number one foodie in the south, were you intimidated by that fact? Or found it as a challenge you wanted to take on?
Gauthier: I have had the best sandwich (Butcher) of my life and the best sweet potato fries (Parkway) of my life in New Orleans. No small feat considering I have only lived here for two months. When I get intimidated, I look at it as inspiration and a sign of growth, a great challenge to overcome obstacles to enhance my career.
SHM Traveler: Talk about your style. What can people expect? What is unique about it?
Gauthier: My relationship with food is like that of local farmers, bee keepers and cheese makers, with great passion for my craft resulting in something very special for the guest. I like to find uniqueness in life experiences. I change my pastry style based on the region I live and work, influenced by the surrounding food and culture. I strive to make approachable food with clear flavor and texture, letting the food stand for itself, always using the right ingredients, and preparing each dish with love and skill.
SHM Traveler: The general public finds the pastry chef trade interesting, thanks much in part to the Food Channel and Cooking Channel. What is a typical day like for you?
Gauthier: Most days I feel like an artist working at my craft. Every day I make sure my guests get great meals that they will enjoy eating. There is an aspect of inspiration to my job, but even a great idea needs to be worked through. A typical day consists of using many disciplines' to make my ideas a reality, a little bit of chemistry and architecture at times helps, or even a touch of psychology.
And now you can prepare one of Chef Gauthier's popular recipes yourself.
Executive Pastry Chef, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group
Yields: 14 servings
Note: At Red Fish Grill, Rice Pudding is served with Red Bean Ice Cream and Honey Butter Glazed Cornbread.
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