David Guas: D.C. Baker Extraordinaire

The New Orleans transplant talks family, fun and—of course—food

NOLA native, deer hunter and self-described “accidental pastry chef,” Guas came to Washington from an elegant hotel kitchen in the Big Easy. As part of the Passion Food Hospitality team, he won the city’s 2005 Pastry Chef of the Year for his work with that popular restaurant group. In November 2010, he ventured on his own with Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, a counter-service restaurant with Louisiana character in Arlington, Virginia. Oprah, Food & Wine, Delta Sky and Southern Living magazines have featured his sweet and savory concoctions. Think fare like muffalettas, gumbo, red velvet cake, beignets and biscuits with pepper jelly. His cookbook DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style (Taunton Press) earned him a spot in Food & Wine’s “Best New Dessert Cookbooks” and a nomination for a James Beard Award. A regular on NBC’s Today Show, Guas finds time for District Hogs, D.C.-area restaurant professionals who ride their motorcycles for fun, food and charity.

Guas' cookbook

Where do you find authentic ingredients for Bayou Bakery?

A few times a month, I head to Mount Vernon to pick up cornmeal and grits exclusively ground for me at the on-site gristmill once used by George Washington himself. It’s awe-inspiring to have these for my signature dishes.

What’s your go-to lunch?

I cross Key Bridge on my Harley and head to Stachowski’s Market (1425 28th Street NW) in Georgetown for a pastrami on rye. Stachowski is “the man” for curing meats, and he custom-makes my andouille sausage for Bayou Bakery.

And a late-afternoon pick-me-up?

For a coffee fix, I go to Peregrine Espresso. At three D.C. locations, they serve varieties from around the globe and follow my philosophy of using Counter Culture Coffee. Baristas prepare each cup with a hands-on, craft approach and finish each latte with art. That makes the difference.

Peregrine Espresso

What’s your tip for nature lovers?

I like to hike every season in Virginia’s Great Falls Park. From three overlooks I can see the falls and the rapids that challenge the best kayakers. The river moves so fast here that it never freezes. [This National Park Service site is out the G.W. Memorial Parkway, 20 minutes from D.C.]

Where do you enjoy dinner?

Palena (3529 Connecticut Avenue NW) in Cleveland Park is one of my favorites. Frank Ruda, winner of Best Chef Mid-Atlantic James Beard title 2007, cooked at the White House in the Reagan-Bush years. When our sons come with us, we dine in the more casual Palena Cafe with à la carte options and a family-friendly vibe.

Can you recommend a nightlife venue?

My wife Simone Rathlé and I head to 9:30 club on V Street for live music. It books big names and up-and-coming talent that’s regional or from around the country. I can’t resist when one of my favorite New Orleans musicians is playing like Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Word to the wise: Some shows sell out quickly, so buy tickets in advance, although tickets are also available at the door.

 

My Perfect Day

9 am: Big Easy Breakfast

My wife and I head to Bayou Bakery (1515 North Courthouse Road) for a New Orleans breakfast. Special now: King Cake, with a “baby Jesus” figure concealed inside a ring of braided dough. The sugar on top is purple, green and gold—Mardi Gras colors.

Noon: Wheelin’ the Mall

My boys Spencer and Kemp and I take bikes to the Mall. We stop at the National Museum of Natural History (hands-on fun) and the National Museum of American History (so I can pay homage at Julia Child’s kitchen).

Cocktail Hour: Smoke and Sip

At the Jefferson Hotel (1200 16th Street NW), Quill bar has a secluded patio, and I like to sit out there and smoke a cigar, enjoy a bourbon and just hang. The patio has heat lamps, so it’s good year round.

Dinner Time: Bon Appetit

My duck hunter/biker pal Robert Weidmaier owns Belgian-French Marcel’s (2401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW). I go for the boudin blanc and a glass of Côtes du Rhône. Marcel’s has one of D.C.’s best wine lists—a 16-pager that sommeliers help guests decode.

Marcel's

Late Night: Bars and Bivalves

Sometimes I end up at Old Ebbitt Grill (675 15th Street NW ). It’s moved over the years, but it’s D.C.’s oldest (circa 1856) saloon. From 3 to 6 pm and at 11 pm, it serves half-price oysters, so I head to my favorite bar in the back, tucked away and not as crowded. I can always count on running into fellow chefs.

 

Jean Lawlor Cohen
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