Being the executive chef for a Tampa Bay restaurant is beyond challenging, given the amount of delicious competition that breeds high expectations from patrons. Now, multiply that pressure by eight, and you have a sneak peek at the responsibility put on Bill Gideon’s shoulders. As the Executive Chef at Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, he oversees everything for the property’s eight dining options. We sat down with Chef Gideon, who has worked in five-star five-diamond restaurants for the better part of 20 years and who has also owned his own restaurants, to discuss his career, his food philosophy and more.
How did you get started in the culinary world? I’ve been cooking professionally since I was 14 years old, so that’s 37 years. I was a vocal and instrumental major in college, and I wanted to go to Broadway. I was in college, and I started working at a four-star restaurant, and quite literally, that’s when I put music on the back burner because I had found my love for cooking.
What’s the first thing you remember cooking? Scrambled eggs. By the time I was 8, I could make a pot roast and bake biscuits. My mother and stepfather worked long hours, so I would have dinner ready when they got home from work. My mother’s background was Jewish so her family had tons of recipes, and I would sit and read those and experiment in the kitchen.
What’s your food philosophy? You have to cook from your heart. My natural evolution has been to inspire and to teach what good food is and not to be afraid of it. I’m not on the stove every day, but I have a great team of several hundred employees. I have to be an inspiration and live above reproach. You have to walk the talk you talk. I have such a great foundation in my years of experience that I can look at someone’s menu and see what their thoughts and processes are, and I use that as an inspiration tool to lead and inspire my team.
Do you cook often at home? I cook at home all the time. I get up at 5 in the morning, and I make my daughter and my fiancée breakfast and lunch so they take it to work and school. I started in the kitchen as a dishwasher, like many chefs do, and still to this day, I find it very therapeutic to wash dishes. You have to remember where you come from and you have to stay grounded, and washing dishes reminds me of that.
What are some of your favorite dishes at the casino? Council Oak is our prime steakhouse, and the prime meat we bring in is handselected for our restaurant. Our number 1 seller is the filet, but a close runner-up in my opinion is the long bone cowboy ribeye. We will engrave your name on the bone, so it has a great presence but it also has so much flavor. I would choose that hands down over any other filet any day of the week.
Fresh Harvest also really blows me away because there are seven different action stations. This is not a buffet with a long line. You can go to each station and taste something and watch is being cooked right in front of you. All the food is cooked to order as much as possible and we try to give you that fresh experience.
What do you want to be known for? I want our property and my team to be known for setting the bar for quality and great tasting food. Ninety-five percent of our food is made from scratch. I want people to know we aren’t following anyone, but rather, we are setting the pace.
WAGYU BEEF TARTARE WITH CRISPY LEEKS, CILANTRO, CAPERS, QUAIL EGG AND SMOKED PEPPER AIOLI
6 oz. wagyu filet, cubed
1 tsp. capers, Lilliput
1 tsp. shallots, diced
1 tsp. cilantro, chopped
.5 tsp. roasted garlic, paste
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. leeks, fired
1 Quail egg
1.5 oz. chipotle mayo
Pinch of smoked salt
Apple wood smoke
Tartare Mixture Directions
Trim all fat and silver skin away from the wagyu tenderloin. Cut wagyu into a small dice. In a mixing bowl, add Diced wagyu tenderloin, capers, shallots, cilantro, garlic paste, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper. Fold in all of these ingredients until everything is evenly mixed. Set aside.
Using a round mold, place the tartare mixture into the mold. Place mixture in the center of the plate. Fill to top of the mold and flatten, like you are making a hamburger patty. Place a thumb-size impression into the center of the tartar mixture. Place the raw quail egg into the indent in the mixture. Take the leeks that have been fried previously and make a nest out of them right next to the egg on top of the mixture. Season the egg with smoked salt. On the rim of the plate, place a dot of chipotle mayo and run your spoon through it. Place cloche over top of the tartare mixture. With a smoking gun, begin to smoke the tartare until the cloche fills up with smoke. Once there is smoke inside, remove the tube from the smoking gun and close the cloche. Remove the cloche tableside and enjoy.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
5223 North Orient Road | Tampa
813-627-7625 | seminolehardrocktampa.com
Written by Melinda Tam Orlando