It takes something special to be the top selling lot at a wine auction featuring some of the finest wines from the past 50 years and across the globe. However, if you have met Guillaume Bienaimé or had the chance to indulge in the delectable foods he creates, then you know a dinner crafted by him is truly something special.
In 2008, ISTP had the joy of featuring a gourmet dinner by our own alumnus as a lot in Soirée du Vin. Four years later, this lot is not only one of the most coveted, but Guillaume is now in his second consecutive year as a member of the Soirée du Vin Committee.
“Everyone likes to feel appreciated. So when Patricia asked me to be on the committee at age 29, I was humbled and glad to accept.”
How did Guillaume come full circle to the point of giving back to ISTP?
To start, it was his parents’ passion for maintaining their French identity that led them in 1987 to Peninsula French American School (the school’s name prior to 1996, when it was changed to the International School of the Peninsula).
As a French national, starting first grade in a French environment was natural for Guillaume. “Being born in France and having French parents, I think this was an easy decision for them,” says Guillaume of his parents’ choice in sending him and his brothers to PFAS.
Guillaume left PFAS at the end of 5th grade in 1992 (at the time there was no middle school), and after middle school and high school he found himself studying Food Service Management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Upon his graduation from Johnson & Wales in 2004, Guillaume took time to supplement his culinary education by briefly studying at Ecole de Savignac in France.
“I think that ISTP simply reinforced what my parents were trying to do at home. Being able to keep my connection to France, physically, linguistically and culturally has given me the opportunity to both work and be educated in Europe. Without that education being reinforced both at home and in school, my ties to France would have undoubtedly suffered.”
In 2005, Guillaume took on the role of Sous Chef for a small Menlo Park restaurant, Marché. After only three years Guillaume was promoted to the coveted position of Executive Chef. This was also the first year Guillaume donated a gourmet dinner lot to Soirée du Vin. “I believe that by being successful, your ability to help others becomes much more powerful. I hope my future success as a chef and entrepreneur will enable me to help [ISTP] more and more every year.”
After serving as the Executive Chef of Marchê for two years, Guillaume has gone on to establish GB Chefing and Consulting and is running his own restaurant, Portola Kitchen, where he is currently the Executive Chef.
As Guillaume’s culinary success grows he still thinks back to his days at ISTP. “I have only fond memories from my time at ISTP. It was quite different back then. There must have been only 16 kids in our class. We were very close.”
“As a chef I believe this education has helped me advance my career. Could I have been successful without it? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be the same.”
Guillaume’s fondness for education is imbued in all that he does and reconnects him to ISTP. “The best part of my job is educating others...turning dishwashers into cooks. Helping others be educators and mentors is something I’m happy to be part of.”
While juggling a new restaurant and a one- year-old son at home, Guillaume still makes time to serve as a dynamic member of the 2012 Soirée du Vin Committee.
When asked how he would encourage his fellow alumni to become more involved with ISTP, Guillaume replied, “I think we all have our part, big or small. Find something that you can bring to the table that is unique to you. As a chef, it is easy for me to contribute to the organization of a food and wine event.”