Chef Thoughts with Kevin Guard
In the realm of culinary artistry, Kevin Guard stands as an exceptional private chef, hailing from the vibrant shores of Oahu, Hawaii. As co-owner of the illustriously named The Guarden, Kevin embodies a deep commitment to excellence and sustainability. Recently, we had the privilege of sitting down with Kevin and three other chefs, all of whom will be featured in upcoming blog posts, but that's for another day. For now, we will focus on Kevin’s story and reflect on his experiences and profound insights into the world of Copper River salmon. Here's what he had to say:
JJ: Tell me a little about yourself and what you do.
Kevin: I’m Kevin Guard and I’m the owner, the co-owner actually, of The Guarden. It’s utilizing my last name, G-U-A-R-D-E-N, so a little word play on that. I started it with my fiancé Sabrina Peters, and we are in it together and um, we practice sustainability through our food– we do private dinners at people’s homes. We, uh, try to give that fine dining experience and we eventually want to grow into doing more of a wedding venue business.
JJ: So, Kevin, let’s get right to it. I want to know what you think and how you feel about being here and working with Copper River salmon. Can you tell me how your understanding of salmon as a protein expanded from this trip?
Kevin: My understanding of salmon as a protein has definitely grown as a whole through this experience. Learning about the migration of salmon, why they catch it at the mouth of the river and noticing the difference through what you and Christa have said; that when you catch [it] upriver you already see a noticeable difference in the flesh and the fat content. And then when we actually fileted it and got to see that deep orange color, we immediately knew that we were getting something beautiful. You can really smell the saltiness; you can taste it like when we had that little raw piece from the belly–it just makes a huge difference. The impact that it has on this community gives it more respect and it deserves more respect. You know, I mean, all animals deserve that respect, and you have to preserve the essence of that. Learning how they process and treat salmon through touring the processing plant has helped get a better understanding of the process, and I believe that it is our responsibility to pass that on to our consumers, our clients and our guests.
JJ: Are you excited to go home and work with Copper River Salmon in new ways in your culinary expressions?
Kevin: Yeah, I’m definitely excited to start using Copper River Salmon. Um, I want to be able to get it to Hawaii first, um, we’ll see how hard that is* or even going through the direct marketer captain Dave, you know, I think he is able to send it over. In comparison to using Atlantic salmon, which is widely available in Hawaii, I would definitely go with the sockeye. Not only is it wild, it’s way tastier, it’s also versatile. Using it at the cookout I was able to make something simple with just salt and pepper, and that’s all you need with this fish. Its essence was honestly intriguing and inspiring; the product just speaks for itself.
JJ: Do you have thoughts about a possible connection between organic food and wild food?
Kevin: I believe there is a connection between organic and wild. With organic proteins and vegetables, you want it to be wild. Letting it grow in its natural habitat like that, there's definitely a correlation that's common ground for it. If you compare what we have here to farmed salmon, they are getting antibiotics, so that’s definitely not organic.The trend for organic is there, and the connection between that and wild, for example Copper River salmon, is huge! You’re having that Copper River salmon gather its nutrients just before it makes its way up the river at its peak performance–get it there and you have the best product you can work with.
Last words from Kevin:
We’re here to make friends and make connections and build our network and our chef community and you don't see that everywhere, I certainly don't get it at home. From the fishermen to the tender boat to the airplane over the fleet –the pilot who has to count and survey the fish and the Fish&Game and just everyone. The restaurant workers, the Marketing Association-- Christa and JJ, coming here, together, traveling here, doing that cookout together yesterday, collaborating, learning about the product, going to the grocery store and figuring out how much stuff costs here and what’s available then putting something to cook and eat together anyway. We made a great meal together using Copper River salmon and that’s just special. It's a huge fishing community here, it’s the economy here. It’s just a beautiful thing to see.
JJ: So, what is next for you?
Kevin: We have quite a bit going on in the near future aside from our regular bookings and scheduled private parties. We have a trip planned to Europe in September, with some pit stops along the way like NYC or Chicago. It starts off at a floral retreat that Sabrina signed up for that’s happening in Belgium, so while she’s doing that, I’m going to check out the city of Liege where it will be held. Our travels always count as business trips because it’s research and development. We are continuing the Euro trip since we are already out there, halfway around the world, to check out two more countries, Croatia, and Turkey. Very excited for the cuisine in both countries as I have made myself familiar with that Mediterranean style Croatia and I love that Middle Eastern influence in Turkey. And once we get back from that trip, we have a large wedding to work so it’s nonstop for us, as always.
*We successfully purchased and sent Copper River salmon to Kevin for an event he held via Alaska Air Cargo a week or so after his trip to Cordova.