LET’S TALK TO JOSÉ GUTIERREZ ABOUT . . .
Describe the modern
food at River Oaks.
Our menu reflects some American favorites
with a French twist. For example, our mac
and cheese is made with Gruyere cheese.
Are there challenges using
American ingredients in
Not these days. Some American
ingredients are as high quality as
French, especially cheeses.
Talk about how French
techniques put a stamp
on your food.
Everything I make uses French technique.
All sauces and stocks are made that way,
and French technique comes through
in the way we extract flavors for many
applications, not only sauces and stocks.
All the cooking techniques are French,
from the way we saute, braise and cook
foods to the way we cut vegetables, all
What do you look for when
sourcing ingredients? What
can be sourced locally?
I look for quality without sacrifice.
We use everything local that we can—
vegetables, eggs, meats. I have always
insisted on organic ingredients. Now,
they are easier to find—and I don’t have
to use FedEx as much.
What classical French fare
do your diners expect? Are
Customers ask for custom menus and
favorites from the past—coq au vin,
braised short ribs, cassoulet, foie gras,
anything with truffles, crêpes. It’s all about
the customers. When they let me know they
want something Italian or Spanish, and are
adventurous, they let me do the menu to
pair with wine.
Did you adapt your early
culinary training in France
to meet American tastes?
Yes, I made Southern nouvelle cuisine
in the late 1980s. We made hushpuppies
stuffed with shrimp Provençal, turnip
greens ravioli, and grits pudding with
peaches and local honey.
Talk about what your
restaurant patrons expect
to see on the menu.
Some things can never change: the burger,
the tuna entree, chicken paillard. Our diners
eat with us three or four times a week—we
are a neighborhood bistro.
Are there some classical
French dishes you’d
hesitate to put on the
menu at River Oaks?
Sweetbreads, chicken en vessie (pig’s
bladder) and all the organ meats.
What kinds of menu items
are customer favorites?
What are your favorites?
Cheese beignets and crab cakes are
customer favorites. My favorite is the
halibut and our fish tacos.
What advice do you have for
others who want to blend
French and American?
Train with the best. And don’t be afraid to
experiment. Some of our mistakes make
the best dishes.