Q&A with Travel Channel’s “American Grilled” Host David Guas
July 8, 2014
All Summer long, Travel Channel is putting master grillers to the test in the new high-heat, high-stakes cooking competition program, “American Grilled.”
Each Wednesday at 9pm ET, the show’s host David Guas of Arlington, Virginia’s Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery travels to such cities as New Orleans, LA; Austin, TX; Memphis, TN; and Savannah, GA where four hardcore local grilling enthusiasts go head-to-head for a chance to win a $10,000 cash prize and be crowned as the ultimate “grill master.”
This week, David and his two guest judges, Danielle “Diva Q” Dimovski and George Hensler are in Annapolis, MD as Eric Frase, Mike Hendrick, Heath Hall, and Julie Merrigan tackle such ingredients as beaten biscuits, crabs, and cowboy ribeyes. But before the action heats up, we sat down one-on-on with Chef Guas to get his take on the program and on grilling in general.
Clint: So David, you grew up in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans, where Cajun and Creole cooking reign supreme. But people don’t normally think of barbecue and grilling when it comes to The Big Easy. Did your family do much live firing cooking when you were growing up?
David: Yes, my father has always loved to grill and it’s been a part of my life as long as I can remember. My father was born in Cuba, so it is an important part of his culture. Big backyard family gatherings centered around the grill have been a long standing Guas tradition.
Clint: When did you actually get to step up and man the grill and do you recall what you were cooking?
David: When I was about 7 years old, my father let me grill burgers for the first time. I have vivid memories of squashing the patties into this contraption that he had. They were dome-shaped cast iron patty makers – campfire style – attached to long metal rods with wooden handles. Looking back, I see he had it all set up for me so I could just load them up, stick them on the grill and think I was actually “grilling.” It wasn’t until I was about 8 or 9 that I started to actually man the grill – still with some adult supervision.
Clint: Now you’re quite well known for your baking prowess, but how would you rate your grilling skills?
David: I don’t claim to know everything about grilling, but what I know is what I’ve learned through trial and error and street smarts, which is how I taught myself pastry and cooking in general. And that’s through never stopping, always trying new techniques, seeing what works and what doesn’t work. As for rating my skills, I would rate it by the number of neighbors, friends and family that come by for my backyard grilling – and keep coming by. Obviously I’m the king of my castle at home.
Clint: When you’re not in the restaurant and you’re grilling for family and friends, is there one dish that’s your “go-to” signature dish?
David: One of my “go-to” signatures for a big grill out is a ton of grilled veggies: zucchini squash, portabella mushrooms, yellow squash, asparagus [depending on the season] and red onion. Sometimes I’ll toss all of those ingredients together once they come off the grill, give them a rough chop and mix them together to marry the flavors. I’ll brighten it with balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. When I decide to do a big grill out, I usually stick to that combination.
Clint: When Travel Channel first approached you about hosting a grilling competition show, did you expect the level of skill and creativity that’s happening in backyards across the country?
David: I had no preconceived notions going into the show, but I was pleasantly surprised throughout the cities and competitors that I experienced and met. I do know there is a lot of talent in backyards across the country. I’m a backyard griller just like my father, my uncle and my neighbors. I was eager to experience raw talent in this format. I figured it might not be as refined as what you might find in a professional kitchen, but I can say that I learned some new things from the contestants.
Clint: Why do you think “American Grilled” will appeal to so many people?
David: It will appeal to a wide audience because it focuses on real, everyday people who are passionate about grilling – and I myself fall into that category. Yes, I have a restaurant and am a professional chef, but at the end of the day I grill for friends and family, so I have that same perspective and that’s something that is top of mind for me, not just when I’m hosting, but when I have on my judging hat.
Clint: What makes it the ultimate outdoor challenge?
David: You’re batting elements like wind, rain and things you’d normally experience in your own backyard. You don’t have the security blanket of your own grill and tools, but everyone has the same equipment, set up and ingredients, so it’s an even playing field.
Clint: You’ve competed on Food Network’s “Chopped” before so you have a pretty good understanding of the focus it takes to get dishes done in the short amount of time that is allotted for each round. How did that impact your role as the show’s host and lead judge?
David: That has definitely made me an overall balanced judge and host, because I’ve been on that side. That experience has made me know what it feels like to be in their shoes. It brought on a level of understanding, which was a significant part of my perspective with the competitors.
Clint: Finally, what advice would you have for backyard cooks looking to amp up their grilling game…taking it beyond the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs and trying their hand at some of the non-traditional ingredients showcased on “American Grilled”?
David: Play around with the implementation of wood and natural charcoal; focus on the citrus and the presence of herbs and try and think outside of just salt and pepper. No matter what protein, remember that slightly charred citrus and some fresh herbs always brighten any grilled items. Don’t be afraid of the flames, it’s okay to have some fire! It brings char and big flavor.
Thanks David and we’re looking forward to a hot “American Grilled” summer!
- Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Editor