Q&A with Chef Guillaume Delaune
Born in Toulon, France, Chef Guillaume Delaune worked his way through some of the top kitchens in the south of France–Roger Vergé's Moulin de Mougins, Villa da Gallici, and La Chèvre d'Or (plus a stint in Montreal at XO at the St. James Hotel)–before landing his dream job this summer. As the chef at Kingsbrae Arms, a charming Relais & Chateaux hotel in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Delaune prepares daily-changing six-course tasting menus for guests, highlighting the incredible Bay of Fundy seafood (like halibut, scallops, and lobster) and seasonal vegetables (mostly from the his garden). His garden- (and ocean)-to-table approach is evident in his beautiful food. A recent meal there included halibut brandade-stuffed ravioli with fennel confit, bathed in a pool of warm lobster bisque. Another course featured melt-in-your-mouth braised beef cheeks with wild boar bacon and porcini mushrooms (all local, bien sûr!) in a red wine glaze. I was in awe. I caught up with Delaune to ask him a few questions about his sublime cooking–and to beg him to share the recipe for his velvety cured salmon. He obliged.
When did you start cooking? And what drew you to cooking?
I started cooking at the age of 16. I used to cook the fish I caught in the Mediterannean Sea, and in the rivers around my hometown [Toulon, France]. I also had a friend who would give me game–hare, pheasant, and wild boar.
How did growing up in the South of France impact your cooking style?
I think [growing up in Toulon] was the most important influence for me. I really love this part of France. I grew up in the middle of olive trees and vineyards, with thyme, rosemary, and anise growing everywhere. That's why I only use olive oil for cooking–I hardly ever use cream or butter. I want to make people feel like they are in Toulon when they eat my bouillabaisse or pistou soup.
Tell us a bit about your job at Kingsbrae Arms. It's such a unique place. What do you love? Any surprises or challenges?
Kingsbrae Arms is really a dream place for me. It's just what I wanted for so long: to cook at a small Relais & Chateaux property. Because we have a small number of guests, we can really focus on them and make them feel at home. I love the fact that I’ve got a vegetable and herb garden and my very own smoker. As for the challenges, think the biggest one is making a different menu every day, especially when dealing with [food] allergies. Sometimes could have up to 2 or 3 different menus when we had a full house.
You all grow a lot of your own vegetables, fruits, and herbs for the restaurant. What sorts of things from the garden did you use this summer?
I use a lot of herbs: coriander, basil, dill, sage, purple sage, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, oregano–I have such a great variety. The vegetables I use the most are carrots, turnips, beets, provider, masai, blue jays and Roma beans, spinach, and my favorite, the zucchinis–both regular and "ronde de Nice." I also have cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic...too many to name them all! I am already working with Harry, one of the owners, to decide which vegetables we will keep, get rid of, or add to the garden next year.
The caviar tasting was one of the highlights of my meal at Kingsbrae Arms. Tell us a big about your partnership with Breviro Caviar.
It’s a privilege to introduce Breviro Caviar to our guests, and for them to discover the uniqueness of this very rare short-nose sturgeon caviar. I often go to [Breviro’s] facilities; I even recently helped to make some caviar. It's a very difficult task to breed those fish, then to find the right moment to harvest the caviar. But the results are beautiful and they really are passionate about making the best product they can possibly have.
Anything new you plan to do with the menu next year?
I will try to add a nice cheese plate, promoting cheeses from Quebec and New Brunswick rather than European ones which everybody already knows. And I’d also like to make gluten-free bread and pastries instead of buying them. A guest gave me some nice [gluten-free] recipes this summer.
What are five ingredients that are always in your pantry?
Cumin, coriander, extra virgin olive oil from les Baux de Provence, garlic, truffle
If you had to throw an impromptu dinner for 8 tonight, what would you make?
For appetizer, a simple arugula salad with Burrata or buffalo mozzarella,
pine nuts, a Balsamic glaze dressing, very thin slices of serrano ham, marinated tomato (just olive oil, chopped fresh basil, microplaned garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary), sprinkled with some fresh scallions, and finished with a bit of pepper from the peppermill and some Maldon salt.
For the main course, a very creamy truffle risotto, with lots of Parmesan and olive oil, with tiny roasted scallops and fresh baby porcini mushrooms. Just before serving, I’d add a piece of crispy smoked wild boar bacon on top and pepper from the peppermill.
For dessert, a vanilla panna cotta with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and a berry coulis, finished with a speculoos crumble.
SALMON GRAVLAXServes 8
2 pound side salmon, 1-inch thick, skin on
2 cups coarse sea salt
1 cup sugar
Bunch of dill, chopped
2 tablespoons course black pepper
Clean and debone the salmon fillet.
In a large bowl, combine the coarse salt with the sugar, the zests and juice of the orange and lemon, the dill, and the pepper.
Lay the salmon skin side up out on a large sheet tray or in a glass baking dish. Rub the salt mixture on both sides of the salmon, packing it on top and around. Cover with plastic wrap and weight down with another sheet tray and a brick or stone on top to press out the moisture. Let cure in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
When ready, rinse the salmon for 5 minutes under cool water, pat dry with paper towels, and let it dry completely for one day in the fridge.
To serve, cut nice thick slices (1/4-inch) and serve with lemon and chive sour cream, olive oil crostini, and some arugula.