Chef of the Month: James Balster of Perch

Name: Chef James Balster

Name of Restaurant: Perch

Restaurant Phone Number: (251) 540-6100

Address: 21196 East Beach Blvd. Gulf Shores AL, 36542

Where were you born and raised?

Bethel, Connecticut

What inspired you to become a chef?

My pursuit of a culinary career stems from spending time with family. The first experience I remember about cooking was on my grandparent’s farm in Iowa. Cooking was always a family event growing up. All family gatherings seemed to end up in the kitchen or at the table, and always involving a large meal. Being a part of the creation of these amazing times brought me closer to my family, and I realized that it made unforgettable memories by making people happy. I am always in pursuit of creating memories for my guests by making them happy.

Where did you train to become a chef?

I am a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and have been training ever since!

What does your typical workday involve?

A typical day at work for me is a flurry of fun! Days are never the same and are always a mix of craziness, fun, educating, challenges, all of which keeps me on my toes. The days start off with checking all the restaurants to ensure that they are set for success and ready to tackle the day, then I move on to the basic ordering, scheduling, and planning. Once this is completed, I move into the preparation and creating stage of the day where my team and I come try to create dishes that will leave a lasting impression and memories for our guests. Then, I finalize the day of work with a walkthrough and a check of all the outlets while putting a plan together for the following day.

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

Perch focuses on sourcing the highest quality ingredients and products from trusted local fishermen and regional farmers and producers. We invite out guests to enjoy our elevated cocktails and cuisine, combined with a perfect sunset and our wonderful team this experience cannot be duplicated anywhere but here on the Gulf Coast.

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

Throughout my career I have had the most amazing opportunities to cook for many World Leaders, Musicians, Actors and Actresses, but the most notable that really made me star struck was having the pleasure to cook for Author and Television Personality, Julia Child.

What are your favorite hobbies?

I have many hobbies that I enjoy dabbling in, but my favorite, besides cooking of course are spending time in the outdoors. Whether it be something as simple as going for a walk, hike, camping or watching a sunset on a pier with my wife there seems to be something really relaxing about being outside

If you won the lottery, how would you spend your winnings?

I would most likely retire and spend my time creating meals and memories for my wife and family.

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

I love all types of Seafood. To me there is nothing better than a nice, fresh piece of fish seasoned with just a little salt and pepper, letting the true flavors of the fish speak for themselves. Served with some fresh vegetables and either a buttered rice, potato or pasta with some fresh herbs from my garden.

What makes Alabama Gulf Seafood special?

What really makes Alabama Gulf Seafood special is the quality and pride behind it. Everything from the Fishermen to the Chefs to the Guests makes it special. The pride of the Gulf Coast is shown throughout.

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