Chef Gilles Schreiber is the executive chef of AG at The Ritz Carlton, Atlanta. He spoke to us about how he began his career at a Michelin starred restaurant, how important beverage pairings are with food, and how his childhood inspires his cooking.
When did you first know that you wanted to become a chef and how did you get your start in the industry?
From a young age I was intrigued by food. My mother was always the host for big gatherings in our family. I used to love helping her cook and learning about food. To me, she is the best cook and also my first mentor.
My family used to celebrate once a year by dining at a Michelin Star Restaurant to experience new trends and try new flavors. We’ve visited 10, and I have many more I still want to enjoy. When we visited L’écrevisse d’Alsace, we had the opportunity to step into the kitchen and I immediately fell in love with it. I asked the Chef if I could make a stage and he agreed; I worked there for 4 months at 15 years old and knew this was what I wanted to do. Soon after, I started studying at the Alexandre Dumas culinary school in Strasbourg and that’s where it all began.
How much consideration do you give beverage pairings when developing a menu?
One cannot live without the other – beverage pairings exist to bring the food to life. The pairing enhances the flavor and bring delicacy to the dish, making it an experience to eat. When developing our menus, I work very closed with our Sommelier to find the ideal pairings for our dishes. We consider every aspect and detail of our dishes to bring our guests the best experience in each bite.
What is your all-time favorite or go-to cocktail?
After living in the Caribbean for six years I have learned to appreciate Rum, however that changed when I arrived in Atlanta two years ago. The bartender made a whole new experience for me. He served up our Smokey Old Fashion that woke up my five senses. Watching the smoke drift from the glass with a hint of hickory wood scent, listening to the pour of the rye whisky, aged exclusively for AG, the feel of the ice sphere swirling, and the rich flavor: a mix of citrus and freshness that exploding in your mouth.
Are there any mixology trends that you think go well with food and fine dining and that you hope to see continue?
I believe the bubbly cocktails will last. They are very well received with such a large number of our guests. They are fun to play with and will pair very well with high end seafood, foie gras, white meat, desserts and more. It’s a celebration drink of infinite variety. In our restaurant, AG, we serve a fresh Pineapple Mojito with Moet Ice Imperial Champagne in a copper pineapple cup.
Where do you go for inspiration when it comes to creating new dishes?
I am drawn back to my childhood memories. I think back to the basics of cooking; trying to bring new ideas, concepts and flavors to combine with our current trends.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to pursue a career in fine dining – whether it be as a chef or behind the bar?
First of all, you must love what you do. Be passionate. Look for excellence. Continue to perfect yourself, but the most important is to excel in the basics so you become the best in what you do.
Photography courtesy of the Ritz Carlton. This interview was originally conducted for Tasting Panel Magazine.