I don't meet very many jovial chefs any more. I meet driven chefs, chefs that know the bottom line and how to meet the physical and mental demands of the restaurant business. They churn out beautiful and tasty dishes, don't get me wrong, but the restaurant business has changed and rare are the purely artisan chefs, driven only by the love for what they do. For this exact reason, I enjoyed filming Guillermo Tellez in the kitchen of Tippling Hall for the February 16th Dinner Party.
In the videos below, you will see that Chef Tellez has a natural ease in the kitchen, creating and executing with child-like joy. A humble and unassuming Chef for sure, Tellez worked with Charlie Trotter for many years. In fact, in the opening scene of My Best Friend's Wedding filmed at the now closed Charlie Trotter's Restaurant, Tellez and Trotter move like frenetic, synchronized dancers together in the kitchen. But Chef Tellez won't tout his primo pedigree when you meet him. He is kind and funny, focusing all his efforts in the kitchen and checking any ego at the door.
When asked what he loves about being a chef, Tellez had this to say. "I love the creative part of developing a dish that will deliver a great sensation and satisfaction on the palate, and the instant gratification I get seeing someone enjoy that right then and there."
Things can get dicey in the hot, tiny, bustling quarters of a kitchen, of course, even for the kindest of chefs. Tellez explained to me his rapport with the chefs that work under him. "The relationship among the sous-chefs and chefs is to me one in which the executive chef is the leader, the teacher and mentor. He is the one that will lead them to be great in what they love to do and that is cooking. This is reflected in the end result, the dish on the table, and makes them proud of and confident in their abilities to deliver a great experience." No wonder his chefs follow him.
Enjoy these videos below. For the February 16 Dinner Party, Chef Tellez makes Lamb Meatballs over Greek Salad and Chicken Pot Pie, sourcing both meats from the humane confines of Slagel Family Farm. Featured guests on The Dinner Party will be Destiny's Child superstar and gospel singer, Michelle Williams, author, TV personality and weekly contributor to the Rachel Ray Show, Dr. Ian Smith and Hollywood director, Cathryn Michon. Jazz great Frank Catalano is the opening act. In addition, there is a pre-Dinner Party Spanish wine tasting by renowned sommelier Robert Houde benefiting The Trotter Project, an organization close to Chef Tellez's heart.