“What’s your favorite dish?”
It’s a question chefs get asked over and over again, so often, in fact, that many no longer give the matter any real thought. But David Gilbert isn’t like most chefs. His take on the question led him on a journey that resulted in the book, “Kitchen Vagabond: A Journey Cooking and Eating Beyond the Kitchen” (Infinity, $27.95 hardback, $17.95 paperback). In it, he talks about his culinary adventures and includes a few recipes he’s picked up over the years that feed both body and soul.
Gilbert wears another hat. He’s also the chef at Sustenio in the Eilan Hotel Resort & Spa, 17103 La Cantera Parkway.
But it was the book that he wanted to focus on in the following conversation:
Q: You’ve recently written a book, “Kitchen Vagabond.” What disciplines, if any, that you learned in the kitchen helped you when writing?
A; I could have never written this book had I not been taught by my parents the mentality to work hard for what you want, and always follow through. The book writing process is a challenge in self-discipline, much like perfecting the culinary craft. I took the same focus to writing — and completing — “Kitchen Vagabond” as I do with projects in the kitchen. For me, this meant relentlessly pushing hard every single day and never loosing focus on the end goal. There were a lot of uncharted waters in learning how editing, book layout, publishing and distribution work. It was all foreign to me, but humbled myself and took a step back to learn to take a step forward to grow.
Q: Your book is about your culinary journeys around the world and dishes you’ve discovered along the way. What dishes have you learned since your move here?
A: San Antonio shocked me with the amount of its deep-rooted culture that makes this city so wonderful! There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of off the beaten path restaurants! I have recently been introduced to the famous puffy taco and from what it sounds like my new local friends have more treats to introduce me to.
What are yours? Please let me know! Email me at email@example.com.
A: There is no shortage of destinations I would like to experience, starting with Vietnam (one of the few Asian countries I did not have the chance to visit while living/traveling in Asia), Southern India, Nepal, Israel, and Egypt. I am currently holding a multiple entry visa into Brazil (a trip I had to cancel last minute) so, who knows what’s next? Guess we will just have to see!
Q: What food trend or trends are you excited about these days?
A: Food, as we know it, is always changing and moving forward. However, the refinement and flare of avant-garde cuisine is still there — there has been a slow shift in delivering simple and familiar foods with the edge of avant-garde presentation.
The most current trends, I feel, are more in the crossover between the kitchen and the beverage program. Chefs are getting involved to assist with flavors and modern techniques. For example, we slow roast pumpkin with clove, all spice, and cinnamon for our bar team for the rum-pumpkin cocktail. The truly chef driven magazines, blogs and information emerging are all pushing the incorporation of chef-driven ingredients into the mixology forefront.
Q: And, in honor of what prompted the book, what are your favorite dishes?
A: The idea for “Kitchen Vagabond” came as a response to the question, “What’s your favorite dish?”
All over the world, people select foods, they cook and they eat. We all receive an early education in these processes, based mainly on where we live and on our national history and culture. I didn’t imagine until well into my teens that I would embark on a career that would direct my restlessness towards what other people cook and eat, how they do it, and what it tastes like. If we are interested and attentive, we cannot separate a dish from the people, places, and events that create the sensory experience of its taste. The ingredients, the preparation and the satisfaction of eating a favorite dish have been the vehicles for me to reflect on the developing flavors of my life. Currently my favorite dish is green papaya salad — sitting on the Kata Beach, Thailand. Now that hasn’t always been my answer, as my environment has changed so has my answer, and I bet by the time I am done traveling and experiencing more of those countries we just talked about then, perhaps, my answer may change.