When I was recently in Washington DC for the Chefs’ State Department reception I took the metro to Arlington, VA to visit David Guas’ bakery. David is originally from New Orleans. Luckily for those in Arlington you can take the boy out of New Orleans but you can’t take New Orleans out of the boy. His bakery, Bayou Bakery, is a delicious homage to his roots.
The first thing you notice when you walk in the door (after the pastries piled high in the case) is a row of plantation shutters on the wall. David found these, and practically all the other fixtures, in salvage shops in New Orleans. It’s a creative and fitting display which makes you feel you were in the French Quarter. The tables, which David made himself, are a pressed composite made from sorghum and cane.
David, like many chefs fell into cooking half by accident, half planned. His Aunt Boo from Abbeville, LA gave him his first cast iron pan and taught him all the Creole basics- how to make a roux, etouffee and seafood gumbo. After two years of college he decided it wasn’t for him and thought he would try cooking. He attended a vocational savory cooking program in New Orleans and after graduation he set his sights on working at The Windsor Court Hotel. After numerous phone calls and interviews he had about given up hope and was about to take a job at a high volume lower quality place. Then magically the Windsor Court called and offered him a pastry cook position. He jumped at the chance, not caring what he was doing. He was in the door.
David worked there for two years, first under German master pastry chef Kurt Ebert and then Lisa Ligget. Jeff Tunks, chef on the culinary side, lured him to Washington to be the opening pastry chef at his restaurant DC Coast. David stayed with Jeff for 10 years eventually running 4 restaurants and managing a large crew.
He knew he eventually wanted to open up his own place so while he pursued this dream he started a consulting business and wrote his first dessert cookbook, Damn Good Sweets: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style.
In between bites of airy beignets piled high with powdered sugar I learned more about David and his love for desserts.
EL: What flavors/ingredients do you like best?
DL: Spices like nutmeg, lemon verbena and passion fruit.
What flavors/ingredients do you like least?
Nothing really. I’m pretty open.
What dessert first comes to mind when I mention the following ingredients:
Lemon- Lemon Ice Box Pie
Passion fruit- An ice cream float. Ginger beer with passion fruit ice cream
Coffee-Tiramisu when it’s done right. Also we grind coffee beans to very fine Turkish grind and add it with steeped Mexican cinnamon and sour cherries to brownies.
Strawberries- I’m envious of California’s long strawberry season. Our season here is very short so I use them heavily when they are around. One of my favorites is our strawberry hand pies. We make our own jam and fill the pies with a cream cheese filling with the jam folded in.
Almonds-We caramelize almonds, coat them in chocolate and toss them in a mixture of cocoa powder, sea salt and smoked paprika.
What dessert has someone else created that you loved?
Commander’s Palace Bread Pudding Soufflé. It’s a blending of several different pastry techniques.
Who’s influenced your dessert style?
A bunch of women! Nicole Plue, Emily Luchetti, Claudia Fleming, Sherry Yard and Lisa Ligget
What ingredient would you like to see appreciated more by diners?
Vanilla. People take it for granted.
What kitchen tool would you be lost without?
What’s your least favorite pastry trend?
Foams. Fortunately they’re on the way out.
What do you do to get recharged creatively?
Completely unplug. No phone, no internet and spend time with my family.
What flavor birthday cake did you have growing up?
Every year I would get a Doberge Cake from Gambinos. The bakery has been around for 100 years. Its two halves, one chocolate and one lemon, put together. I go back for one every time I go home?
14. Where do you like to eat when you come to The Bay Area?
What was the last thing you made outside of work?
Fried catfish and oysters at the house last night, along with Kemp’s (my 10 year old son) secret sauce.
Where do you like to eat when you come to The Bay Area?
On my last trip there I was checking out all the amazing coffee shops- Blue Bottle, Rituals and Fourbarrel.