Chef of the Month: George Reis of Ocean and 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar

Name: Chef George Reis

Name of Restaurants: Ocean and 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar in Birmingham

Restaurant Phone Number: (205) 933-0999 (Ocean) / (205) 918-0726 (5 Point Public House Oyster Bar)

Where were you born and raised?

Born in the Midwest, but I was raised in upstate New York.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I grew up in a family that cooked all the time. We’re very passionate about food. My parents were “foodies” long before the term even existed. My dad had the great fortune of actually taking cooking lessons with James Beard. One of my prized possessions is a cookbook signed by James Beard to my parents.

What others jobs, if any, have you worked within the food industry?

Pretty much all of it has been in the back of the house. I started in this business as a buss boy/dishwasher and have run every gamut in the kitchen all the way up to exec chefs at resorts, and eventually owner of my own restaurants.

Why do you believe your current restaurant is one of the best in the state?

I always strive to move forward with what we do, and to move forward with different foods and flavors and educating everybody as well as myself.

Who is the most notable person you’ve ever cooked for?

The one I remember the most is Senator Ted Kennedy. It was a dinner party, and I made a dolphin out of cream cheese. He loved it and wanted to meet the person who did it, so that was pretty cool.

What’s your favorite seafood dish to serve up for yourself and your family?

You know, it changes throughout the season, but right now I’ve got some beautiful Red Snapper coming up from the Gulf that’s just incredibly gorgeous. They’re huge.

Do you own any pets?

I was adopted by a neighborhood. I’m his pet, I guess.

If you could cook for with any celebrity of historical figure, who would it be?

That’s a tough one. I guess I’d say I’d like to cook for James Beard.

If you weren’t a chef, what line of work would you pursue?

I’d be a frustrated winemaker.

What makes Alabama Gulf Seafood special?

The quality of the stuff coming out of the Gulf is amazing. It’s just incredible quality of product. Then there’s the pride that the people down there are taking in what they do. You’ve got people who are trying to bring you the best product, and as a chef, that makes my job easy, because at that point I’m 95 percent of the way to making something exceptional.