New Orleans born-and-raised chef David Guas has been delighting patrons for years with his Louisianan fare at Bayou Bakery in Arlington. No stranger to the media, Guas has appeared on Food Network's "Chopped" and "The Today Show", and was named Arlington Magazine's Best Chef of 2014.
Never content to rest on his laurels, David announced earlier this year that he would be opening a second Bayou Bakery on Capitol Hill. Shortly after that announcement, his new Travel Channel show "American Grilled" debuted. Despite his packed schedule, David found time to sit down and chat with us about both his new show and his new restaurant, and how he finds time to balance it all.
So I hear you're on TV.
Yup, I'm the host of Travel Channel's American Grilled show. I'm also one of the show's judges.
So it's a BBQ show?
Actually no – glad you brought that up. This show isn't about BBQ per se, though we have had some BBQers on the show. It's about all kinds of grilling, not just BBQ.
Tell us about the show.
Each episode takes place in and features a different city – there's your Travel Channel spin. We always start the show with a segment about the unique aspects of the host city — some factoids are related to food, and some are just fun facts about what makes the city unique. Then we get down to the competition. Four grillers from that city and surrounding areas compete for the title of local Grillmaster. There are three rounds of competition (20 min, 40 min, and 50 min), and one competitor is eliminated in each round. But unlike most competitive shows on TV these days, this is not a "mean" show.
What about the food?
Each round features a "reveal" ingredient. We try to pick "reveal" ingredients that are unique to the host city. So in Charlottesville it was a whole hog's head, which is really challenging to work with in the given time frames. But not every "reveal" ingredient is that difficult to work with — we're not trying stump the contestants, just keep things interesting. The grillers aren't necessarily required to use that ingredient, but if they choose not to (or forget to use it), their dish had better be mind-blowing. The grill they use is a hybrid that allows for three types of cooking: it has a charcoal side, a gas side and a "searing" panel.
Are the competitors professional chefs?
No, we're not looking for professional chefs by any means. Sometimes it's your average Joe who has maybe dabbled in culinary competition before. We also get people who are either in the catering business or trying to launch a catering business or food truck. But mostly, it's just regular people who've been dubbed, say, the best griller in their family or the grillmaster among their friends. We're not really interested in attracting professional chefs, but occasionally some might make it through the casting process.
What is it about the show's concept that appealed to you?
It's real people with real equipment and real tools — nothing too modern or professional. The cuts of meat, proteins, vegetables and ingredients are mostly things you can get any grocery store or butcher shop – everyday ingredients, but maybe not something you would necessarily associate with the grill. So we are challenging the contestants to think outside the box, but in ways that people could replicate at home.
Also, our culinary director actually shops in the local farmers markets, butcher shops, etc. to stock up the larder for each episode. So not only is the food fresh and local, that allows us to highlight foods that are really unique to that city. We also try to have judges who are somehow related to the local cuisine. For instance, on the Pensacola show we had a woman who has been raising alligators for 50 years, and her product was one of the reveal ingredients on the episode.
So how are you balancing all of this travel and filming with your plans to open a new restaurant on the Hill by the end of the year?
How does anyone balance anything? You wake up each day and have your list of things you need to knock out for the day, and you just take care of whatever is in front of you. It's certainly forced me to be a lot more organized, and get a lot friendlier with Google calendar. But hey, it's been good practice for when the new restaurant is open. And I've got a great team in place at the Arlington location, which is definitely helpful. But there will never be a point where you feel totally comfortable and ready to branch out — if I wait for the moment to be "perfect," it'll never happen.
Why Capitol Hill? Why now?
The motivation to start looking for a second location is that we can't really be successful financially or generate enough to really keep going without having a few more locations. But it's also about spreading the love a little bit, and wanting to have a presence somewhere else. Capitol Hill really reminds me of New Orleans — the sidewalks, the architecture, the wrought iron, the shutters, the landscape — there are a lot of things on the Hill that remind me of New Orleans. Also, we've got all of our delegates from Louisiana here on the Hill. We currently cater to them from Arlington, but this will open up more opportunities for us to bring them good Louisiana food. And our price point and offerings are perfect for the Hill.
Yes, your offerings. Let's talk about the restaurant. What will it be called, and what are you going to serve?
It's also going to be called Bayou Bakery Coffee Bar & Eatery. We'll be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It'll be counter service, just like Arlington. You can grab-and-go, or order and have a seat and have your food brought out to you. This space is two levels, and the kitchen is upstairs, so that will be a little tricky logistically. Unlike Arlington, we are able to put a proper hood system in place here, so we'll be able to have things like fried shrimp and oysters. We'll have a designated fryer for beignets and a separate one for the fried proteins. We're going to start with the Arlington menu for the most part with a few fun additions like the fried shrimp and oysters, and then we'll see how the menu grows. In Arlington, we started with a small menu and let it grow organically based on what our clients told us they wanted. We plan to do the same on the Hill.
For our coffee program, we currently use Counterculture Coffee, the same roaster as Peregrine Espresso. But we try to offer a different varietal than Peregrine so we can have a nice balance in the neighborhood. For our chickory coffee, we actually blend the counterculture coffee with a roasted chickory that we order in bulk.