A Q&A With James Beard House Honoree Bill Glover

A Conversation with Bill Glover,  by Colleen Leonardi and Jake Fernberg; Photograph Courtesy of Bill Glover

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One of the most renowned institutions in cuisine, The James Beard House often extends invitations to prepare a meal at their famed New York home. These honors normally go to outstanding chefs known throughout the country or their region for their prowess in their craft and dedication to using the best quality ingredients. Columbus’s own Bill Glover, executive chef of Gallerie Bar & Bistro, has been invited to cook at the James Beard House, and we asked him some questions about what it’s like to receive this honor and how he is preparing his dinner. We wish him the best in New York—Jake Fernberg

Q: For starters, how does it feel to be invited to cook at the James Beard House?

A: I am so grateful to have the chance to be associated with such a well-respected establishment in our field. I was definitely humbled when I received the invitation, and I immediately felt a sense of pride because the James Beard House was acknowledging all my years of hard work. Above all, the most important aspect for me was to have the chance to represent Columbus, Ohio, at the culinary Mecca that the James Beard House represents. 

Q: You’re about to be cooking in one of the “traditional” capitals of fine dining. How do you feel the Columbus culinary community measures up against a place like New York City?

A: Columbus’ cultural place on the map is legitimate, for sure: our arts, music, and dining communities are doing things similarly to other major cities across the country. New York is certainly the gold standard when it comes to being a cultural source of so many of the world’s trends. Columbus has a little bit of everything and in that way we have a lot in common with New York. I am not sure it is fair to make a direct comparison between the two cities as we both have specific identities that deserve celebration.

Q: How do you incorporate innovation into your practice as a chef?

A: In our kitchen we use many of the molecular techniques made popular in the last decade and have developed some recipes around the sous-vide concept as well. However, we make a point not to lead with the molecular concepts; instead we use them with discretion and in a subtle manner, which allows the ingredients to speak for themselves. 

Q:  What is your creative process as a chef, and how do you work with the seasons to prepare your menus?

A: Flavors and ingredients change with the seasons, and at Gallerie Bar and Bistro we evolve menus based on ingredient availability. Ohio is one of the most incredible states in the nation for chefs from an agricultural perspective. The livestock and vegetables grown here are just plain better than most anywhere in the country.

Q:  What is on the menu for the dinner at the James Beard House?

A: The menu consists of 100% locally sourced ingredients from Ohio. I have connected over a dozen local farms to this menu in an effort to showcase our state’s finest producers on one menu. Every single bite of food served is going to be carefully selected by visiting farms, choosing the best ingredients that each producer has to offer, and transforming it into well-designed compositions that embody the Midwest.

Q:  How are you collaborating with local producers to bring the food from Central Ohio’s farms to the James Beard House?

A: Mere moments after the invite was formally presented to me, I thought about the concept and how we could showcase Columbus, Ohio, in the most impactful way possible.  The shift in my mind immediately went away from me as a chef and centered on our local farmers and growers that produce at such a high level. I went to work finding partners that could help bring this concept to the table.

The first partner that jumped on board was James Anderson of Anderson Farms in Pataskala, Ohio. James is pasture-raising world-class heritage breed pork, chicken, and rabbits that are all featured on the menu. On his farm, James is feeding the livestock raised for the dinner with spent grains from Watershed’s distilling and Seventh Sons’ brewing processes. I also thought of The Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio, whose reputation precedes them in some of the finest kitchens all over the world. These two farms have the largest presence on the menu but there are many others that have contributed their time and products to driving this concept home. Blue Jacket Dairy in Bellefontaine, Ohio, has their Ludlow cheese and goat cheese worked into the menu. Fresh Water Farms of Ohio in Urbana are raising incredible rainbow trout in their spring-fed systems that I am featuring in the first course. Swainway Farms in Columbus was able to provide an ingredient that I thought might not make the menu because it isn’t commonly grown in Ohio—their young ginger is incredible and finalized the list of needs during the planning process. 

The collaboration with local producers does not end at the food; beverage is part of any well-planned dinner and Central Ohio is represented in beverages as well. Travis Owens from Curio will be mixing the entire line from Watershed into craft cocktails for the cocktail hour prior to the seated dinner, while Colin Vent has brewed two beers for the event as well:  one for the pre-function and one to be paired with a dinner course which is aged in a spent bourbon barrel from Watershed. One Line Coffee in the Short North is providing coffee for our dessert beverage pairing that Travis created as well as post dinner coffee service. The list goes on and many others are involved in making this concept an honest representation of all things Ohio.

Q: If there were one flavor that captures the essence of Central Ohio that you could impart to the James Beard House, what would it be?

A: This answer comes very quickly to me: corn. I have corn on the menu in three places, but the dessert that our pastry chef Devon Morgan and I came up with is focused on the most iconic crop we grow here in Ohio. We did an Ohio sweet corn soufflé with a honey sabayon, roasted apricots, and a corn tuile that uses Shagbark’s corn meal.

Q:  Why do you love being a chef in Columbus?

A: I have worked in this city for over 20 years; in that time I have seen such an amazing amount of growth and development. It is such an incredible pleasure to have some of the best ingredients right at our fingertips each and every day as chefs. The presence of those amazing ingredients makes our job a joy to do. I am proud to call Columbus home, and I hope to bring as much well-deserved attention to our culinary scene as possible by showcasing as many talented individuals and products through collaboration as I possibly can.

Columbus, Ohio, is a jewel of the Midwest and provides an agricultural bounty that shapes the culinary landscape that continues to grow and develop, making Columbus a force to be reckoned with.  

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Learn more about the James Beard Foundation, including the James Beard House at http://www.jamesbeard.org/ and learn more about Bill Glover’s “home” restaurant, Gallerie Bar & Bistro, at http://www.galleriebarandbistro.com/home