Chef David Gilbert on
Patrick Langlinais

David Gilbert
1217 Main St
Dallas, TX 75202
(214) 760-9000

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Antoinette Bruno: When and why did you start cooking? What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
David Gilbert: My first kitchen experience was cooking scrambled eggs when I was seven years old. My grandfather owned a butcher shop and taught me to cook using simple seasoning and fresh ingredients. I later enrolled in the culinary arts program and Johnson and Wales and graduated in 1997.

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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. Thomas.

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.

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Interview Cont'd
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 is necessary.

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 Craft.

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?
DG: Snuffer’s 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 now?
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 with?
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 doing?
DG: A starving artist, a math or culinary school teacher, or a SCUBA instructor.

AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for you?
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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   Published: April 2007