5 questions for: Billy Cole

Gunshow’s first pastry chef shares his take on modernist cuisine and his creative approach to food.

In Atlanta, the dining experience at Gunshow is unusual and unique.
The best and most exciting thing about Gunshow is being surrounded by talented chefs who all have their own views on food. All of these voices help push things in different directions that I might not see.

How did you step into this new role?
Anything goes at Gunshow, so putting my food and ideas on the menu naturally blends in. Gunshow has always had someone in a pastry position, but it has never been a position with the official pastry chef title. I started at Gunshow helping in that role, and after a few months, Joey [Ward] and Kevin [Gillespie] created the titled position for me. I feel honored that they trust me and enjoy my food enough to want me in this role.

How does the ever-changing menu influence your creative process?
In our weekly menu-planning meetings, a dish idea can push me in a new direction. Having seven or eight of us talking about food and tossing out ideas makes it easy to get inspired to create new flavor combinations I’ve never thought of. Being around creative people makes me more creative and innovative.

Your pastries are quite inventive, and you often use unexpected ingredients.
With the “anything goes” attitude of Gunshow, creating sweet and savory desserts works well. Working with seasonal produce and local farms also drives my food. Guests come in for something exciting and different, and I want to be able to offer them an interesting dish. And you will always see Kevin Gillespie’s banana pudding on the menu—it’s a crowd-pleaser.

What’s your personal take on experimental cuisine?
I worked for Richard Blais as a sous chef for several years, so I have some understanding of experimental cuisine or modernist cuisine. For me, all that matters is taste. If fermentation, sous vide or hydrocolloids help create better flavors, then there is no reason not to use it. Just as long as it tastes good in the end.