Chef David Gilbert
Luqa | Dallas
Raised in Dallas, 28 year old Executive Chef David Gilbert
credits his family with first inspiring his love for cooking –
Gilbert’s grandfather owned a butcher shop and taught him
to cook with simple seasonings and the freshest ingredients. Gilbert
enrolled in the culinary arts program at Johnson and Wales University
where he worked to master his technique. After graduating in 1997,
Gilbert moved to Europe and landed a spot at the Michelin-starred
Restaurant Vermeer in Amsterdam with Edwin Katz. In 1999,
Gilbert returned to the U.S. to further his techniques at The Ritz-Carlton
in Buckhead, Atlanta where he worked under Atlanta mentor chefs
Michael Ganley and Joel Antunes and sharpened his leadership skills.
Within a year was promoted to head chef at The Ritz-Carlton in St.
As Executive Sous at The Orient Express’
The Inn at Perry Cabin, Gilbert became known for initiating
a fresh farmer’s market menu, which received national recognition.
In 2000, Gilbert won a bronze medal for his cooking at the Chaine
des Rotisseurs junior commis competition; in 2001 he took home the
silver. Gilbert continued honing his skills in locales across the
country before being named chef de cuisine at St. Louis’ Eau
Bistro. After a year at Eau Bistro, Gilbert left Missouri
for California, where he served as Executive Chef of The Beverly
Hilton’s landmark restaurant.
At Luqa, Gilbert entertains the diner
with his interactive dishes that involve tableside activation of
rosemary aromas, sucking mousses from tubes, and breaking a crème
brulée caramel that hovers a few inches above its generally
attached custard. What sets David apart from so many other chefs
playing with their food is that each one of his dishes stands alone
as a high-flavor, high-concept, sensual experience with pleasing
the diner in mind rather than showing off. He elevates lowbrow ingredients
like barley, onion and bacon in a tender, concentrated risotto with
pink slices of squab, and he seeks out exotic products like kangaroo,
which he pairs with pillows of potato gnocchi.
AB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
DG: After graduation, I moved
to Europe and got a job working under Edward Ratz at the Restaurant
Vermeer in Amsterdam. In 1999, I moved back to the states,
got a job at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead, and was shortly promoted
to head chef at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas. I then worked as
executive sous chef at The Orient Express’ The Inn at
Perry Cabin, and eventually was named chef de cuisine at Eau
Bistro in St. Louis. I went on to work as executive chef at the
Beverly Hilton before finally moving to Luqa.
AB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you
hire chefs with and without a culinary school background?
DG: Yes, I think culinary education
AB: You count Joel Antunes, Xavier Solomon, Michael Ganley, Charlie
Trotter, Stephen Hall and you parents among your mentors, and your
team as your inspiration. What have you learned from them?
DG: Michael Ganley taught me
what it takes to be a leader and a mentor. When I worked for him
I was the saucier at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. To this day I still
call him for help and advice. He came and helped me open Luqa.
AB: In which kitchens have you staged?
DG: I experiment and work on dishes in our own kitchen.
AB: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re
interviewing them for a position in your kitchen? What sort of answer
are you looking for?
DG: I need to see passion for all things, not just the food industry.
I want to know what you do when you’re not working. Non-culinary
activities are important for a well-rounded chef.
AB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
DG: I preach: you need to love
food! Also, keep in mind that even though you are a chef you are
still in the service industry and you need to please your customers.
You need to go above and beyond the call of duty every day. Rise
above the status quo!
AB: Which chefs do you consider to be your peers?
DG: Jason Weaver of The
French Room, Ross Shonen at Nobu, and Jill Bates at
AB: Is there any ingredient that you feel is particularly under
appreciated or under utilized?
DG: Quince. A cumin and quince
savory tart is a great combination.
AB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
DG: Light, simple flavors with slightly stronger, exotic fruits,
like vanilla and guava or passion fruit.
AB: Where would you like to
go for culinary travel? Why?
DG: Spain has been the center of the culinary world for a while.
AB: What are your favorite restaurants-off the beaten path-in your
city? What is your favorite dish there? What are your favorite after
hour places and bars?
for cheddar fries: the ultimate heart attack in a basket. Angry
Dog for a great chilli cheese dog and Taco Cabana
for a black bean and rice or chicken burrito.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry
DG: There are more adventurous
diners and world class travelers in restaurants than ever before.
AB: Which person in history would you most like to have dinner
DG: My grandfather who passed away when I was very young.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
DG: I like to keep food sensory
oriented. Have fun with your food. Play with your cooking and include
personal and emotional aspects of yourself in everything you make.
AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be
DG: A starving artist, a math or culinary school teacher, or a SCUBA
AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for
DG: To me success is maintaining
a work environment of mutual respect where the whole team is on
board with the greater vision of the restaurant, not just materialistic
way. Five years from now, I’d love to be opening up the second
or third Luqa.
AB: How are you involved in
your local culinary community? Nationally/Globally?
DG: I’m involved with
the North Texas food bank, and I teach when I can.
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