Before starting Blind Pig Bistro with chef Charles Walpole, René Gutierrez spent 10 years working the front of house for restaurants around Seattle, most recently Staple and Fancy. But when the restaurant turns the former teriyaki shop next door into new lunchtime spot Blind Pig at Eastlake Teriyaki, somebody's got to be in the kitchen. Hence Gutierrez will be stepping into the role of head chef, a move that keeps overhead low and causes him to reach way back in his professional history to his days in the kitchen at the now-shuttered Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina, which won a James Beard Award in 2000.
Though he's nervous to jump back into the demands of professional cooking, Gutierrez says working as a manager has encouraged him to become more attentive to customer needs in his food. “It’s rare of a chef to learn about service, and I wanted to learn more about other aspects of a restaurant that make people happy,” he says.
Much of Gutierrez's menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches will reflect the casual, hyperseasonal vibe at Blind Pig, but he's most excited to weave in some Mexican dishes from his own heritage. “I want to make food that will translate into quick, delicious goodness.”
Here, a few of René Gutierrez's favorite things:
Dish to make at home: Spoon bread.
Biggest restaurant pet peeve: Can’t say I have a biggest one; it’s more a collection of little ones.
Lesson learned from front of house: Wine is delicious.
Favorite item that’s been on Blind Pig’s menu: Scallop crudo with salmorejo and dried olive.
Dish that will be at Blind Pig at Eastlake Teriyaki: Hard to say, maybe a banh mi as a homage to Eastlake Teriyaki.
Banned from Blind Pig: Phish and Grateful Dead.
Secret ingredient: Allspice.
Working with Charles is… Inspiring.
First dish ever made: After-school snack of saltine topped with sliced Kraft cheese, ketchup, pickle, and mustard. Washed down with pickle juice.
Most memorable kitchen disaster: At a college dinner party, I accidentally got soapy water in Spanish rice. My professor said, “Put some wine in it, no one will notice.”
Guilty pleasure: Armageddon, the movie. It’s terribly good.
Three things on your home kitchen counter right now: Honey, hot sauce, and a dirty cutting board.
Craziest work story that can be committed to print: Unfortunately, the nonprintable stories are the only ones that come to mind.