A Conversation with Zach Gutweiler

I'll always have fond memories of going up to that window at the Gas Lamp and ordering deliciously inventive food from their small kitchen. While The Hole in the Wall may be closed, the chef behind it isn't stopping anytime soon.

Zach Gutweiler is the brains behind the latest restaurant in town, Reed's Hollow. As if having a notable restaurant wasn't enough, he was also recently named a semifinalist in Eater's list of "young gun talent" from across the U.S. Way cool, right? I reviewed Reed's for Catch DSM awhile ago and you can read that review here. I can't wait to go back.

Without further ado, Zach....

So I was huge fan of the Hole in the Wall. It felt really experimental to me. What was your goal in opening that place?

In the beginning it was just a way to use my own ideas in the kitchen, but it eventually became more of an enlightened thing. I believe everyone should eat good food and that doesn't me it always needs to be fancy. 

Back at the Hole in the Wall, I wasn't trying to be experimental as much as I was just trying to learn new things. But I guess you end up experimenting when you're learning, so they all end up playing in the same realm.

Who are some of your idols in the culinary industry? My first thought would be David Chang....

I think David's influenced everyone when it comes to food. He'll take something very basic, but he'll do it up very proper. He really invented the whole "low-key environment, high-end food" atmosphere and that's something we do here. With that type of environment, you can draw in all kinds of people because there's not just one type that it's aimed at.

As as for idols or people who've influenced me, there are guys like Sean Brock, Rene Redzepi, and Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck. There's so many great people out there pushing the culinary scene into a new direction and it's inspiring to see. It really gives you more of a drive to do your own thing when you see others doing theirs. 

Have you always been interested in the culinary arts?

In college I began to cook for myself and I found an interest in it that way. I've always been semi-creative and I was also big into extreme sports, so that drive and openness was already there. I think enjoy this line of work because it takes so much knowledge to be truly creative. Everything builds on itself and it feels like there are no limits.

What do you hope to add to Des Moines with Reed's Hollow?

I want to create another outlet of eating for people here in the City. I'd like to think of this place as being an "electric restaurant," a place where it's easy-going and where we're all having fun. Maybe not for the staff all the time, but for the guests, you know? (Laughing)

What are your thoughts on Des Moines?

I've had ups and downs. When I first moved here, I wasn't a big fan of it. But I've come to a realization that Des Moines is wide open to ideas and if you're a creative person, you can really do anything. There isn't just one direction to go. If you look at it that way, this is an amazing place.

But there's also not a base for creative people. You have to have real initiative to accomplish creative things here, otherwise it won't take off. In some ways, I think we need a city hero or someone to aspire to as a community. I think having someone like that would increase people's initiative to go and do new things here. 

Folks: go visit Reed's Hollow sometime soon. Sit on their rooftop patio, order a drink and the orange chicken, and enjoy new, interesting sensations from one of the city's most original menus. Also a small note: I remembered to bring my camera, but not my memory card. So all of these pictures were taken with my iPhone.