Yellowstone Chef Gator On His New Cookbook, The Show Ending, & Cooking For The Cast
Yellowstone: The Official Dutton Ranch Family Cookbook features recipes from the show and Gabriel “Gator” Guilbeau’s childhood.
As the Dutton family’s longtime chef at the Yellowstone ranch (who also happens to be head of craft services for the series), Gabriel “Gator” Guilbeau has cooked up some incredible meals. Those steaks, the potatoes, and even grilled octopus. But have you ever noticed that those family dinner scenes tend to end in conflict, mostly likely with Beth storming off, and that beautiful plate of food often goes untouched? Well, he sure has.
“It’s been a fan joke for a long time that Gator makes all this great food and nobody ever freaking eats, man,” Guilbeau laughs. But don’t worry, none of it goes to waste. “We’ll do those scenes and then right after we’ll go eat all the real food.”
You could say that cooking is in Guilbeau’s blood. While he grew up in California, he was raised by a family of talented chefs from Louisiana who got him excited about cooking when he was in high school. “Cooking really got me in touch with my Cajun heritage,” Guilbeau says. He went on to follow the same path as his father, who cooked professionally on film sets for over 25 years.
After developing a good reputation working in craft services in Louisiana, Guilbeau’s name eventually made its way to Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan. “Several people I knew from over the years ended up on Yellowstone up in Montana and Utah. They were having some issues with getting people fed and Taylor Sheridan’s not exactly the easiest guy to please,” Guilbeau says. “So there was kind of some chatter about, ‘Oh, you should call this guy Gator.’”
In 2017, Guilbeau’s phone rang with a job offer. “I got a phone call one night at about midnight asking if I was interested,” he recalls. “I packed up all my stuff and I drove through the night, clear to Utah and met a young guy in a parking lot who had a check for me at about 1 a.m. [the next day]. I met Taylor quite quickly after that. Within a few hours, we started that first day.”
Guilbeau’s gig on Yellowstone started with a meat smoker that caught Sheridan’s eye. “[Sheridan] goes, ‘Yep, you’re going to do fine here,’” Guilbeau recalls of his first meeting with the series creator. “And then that was it.”
A few months later, though he’d been around film sets for years, Guilbeau got his first “real acting” credit in a scene as “Gator,” the Duttons’ personal cook. “I got my first cameo in the show, cooking beans for the cowboys at breakfast,” he shares. Since then, he’s had many cameos with the Duttons, including that viral milkshake scene with Beth.
For Romper’s Family Dinner series, Guilbeau chatted about the inspiration behind his new cookbook, Yellowstone: The Official Dutton Ranch Family Cookbook, how Beth’s vodka smoothie came to be, and what he hopes happens to his character as Yellowstone comes to an end with Season 5.
What inspired you to write this cookbook?
It’s been forthcoming for some years now. Not just with the Yellowstone fan base, but more in my community — my film community and friends and family. I’ve been cooking now professionally for over 14 years, and I started to gain a pretty good following of people that really were interested in some of the things I was doing. And as my popularity with Yellowstone grew, it was no longer people just hinting at it, people were dead asking when the cookbook was coming out.
The recipes in the cookbook are inspired by your own life, your family, as well as the show. Do any especially sentimental recipes come to mind?
The chicken and dumpling recipe, that’s one of my all-time favorite things to cook. When I first started that recipe, it was kind of the first time I’d ever really been homesick when I started my career on the road. I think I was in Virginia or something, and I was looking for something to make me feel a little bit more at home. Every year when I’d go home, my mom would always ask me what I wanted to eat and that’s what I’d pick. It was very simple and, I don’t know, for some reason that recipe just always stuck with me and I turned it into one of my most popular dishes.
As far as recipes from the show, have you actually had Beth’s “Two Scoops of Ice Cream, Three Shots of Vodka” smoothie”?
I may or may not have already had that before that line even came out.
Ha, so that’s how it got in?
Yeah, it’s a very funny line from the show and we have a slightly less aggressive version of it in the book.
Can you tell me about what family dinners were like growing up?
When I was a kid, most of my family dinners were at home with my mom and my sister. But we also did a lot of camping and traveling when we were young. We did a lot of “camp cooking” and my dad would be involved with that sometimes. A lot of times it would just be my mom, but it was just cooking outdoors and just on little stovetop or over the fire. I always used to do steaks with my dad ... we’d go down to the market and get a couple of big ribeyes. That was our father-son event, cooking steaks on the grill out back. Once I started to get a little older, I took over the grilling. To this day, I still grill the steaks.
What’s your family’s go-to “camp cooking” recipe?
That’d be another recipe that’s in the book: the crunchy coleslaw, which is one of my mom’s recipes as well. It’s a really easy, delicious coleslaw recipe that we can pack. You just keep the dressing separate in a jar. You prep it at the house and you bring it with you camping. Every single time we went camping, we had crunchy coleslaw.
When you’re cooking for hundreds of people on set, you’re bound to run into different tastes and picky eaters. How do you handle that? What’s a typical menu when you’re on set of Yellowstone?
It’s funny because as many picky eaters are out there, something about being up in the mountains — up in Montana and being on the ranch, the real set with all the horses and all the cowboys — something about that kind of makes people less picky, I guess. Or maybe it’s me, but I really don’t find as often as you’d think people that are really persnickety about their food. As long as it’s good and fresh and made by hand, not serving people gas station food. It’s a big deal to them. I keep a very wide range of menu items available, I make sure to do lots of vegetables and gluten-free stuff and stuff that has no dairy. I find if I just keep a lot of options out there for everybody, it keeps everyone mutually happy.
What are some of the cast’s favorite meals you’ve made over the years?
The Cajun food really hits a hard note every time. It’s something that you can’t get very many places anymore. It’s something that I do very well. The étouffées, the gumbos, some of the stews and sauces. Barbecue is always very popular. It’s the most labor intensive of all the cooking though, so I’ve got to pick my times when I do my barbecue so that I have the time to do it and we have the logistic ability to do it as well.
Everybody always enjoys the big mixed grill. We’ll get a big 6 or 8-foot grill out and bring it to set and go grill in front of everybody. We’ll grill just about anything if it’ll cook. That’s a very good old Yellowstone trick: if you grill it, they will eat it.
Working on Taylor Sheridan’s many projects, this job has surely taken you to some really amazing places. Can you think of a truly incredible meal you’ve had on the road?
We used to go back and forth from Montana to Utah all the time. It was part of the schedule, that 500-mile trip back and forth. I can’t believe we would do that. But I did stop at this one place one time, and it was right before you leave the state of Montana going south and it was behind a gas station of all places. I don’t even know the name of this place, but it was a little diner behind an old Sinclair station and I had a fried pork chop lunch. It was one of the best pork chops I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Since this is the last season of Yellowstone, do you have any big blowout meals planned to commemorate the end of the series?
I try not to plan that far in advance. Because whenever you make a plan in our business, you’re sure to change it. But as soon as we get the word that we are going to start finishing up, that’s when all the wheels will start turning in my head. I base a lot of my cooking on environmental influence. So whatever season it is or wherever we are, who’s around, what’s available, it all depends on what the wind blows my way that week.
Do you have any ideas of how your character’s story will end?
I hope that it doesn’t end! I hope that there’s more Yellowstone-based series after this that maybe I can continue. Of course, if they do kill me, I can come up in a new series. So that’s always cool. I prefer not to die.
You never know though.
I never know. I might just mess up Beth’s smoothie and she has to stab me with my own knife. Hopefully it’s not so macabre.
Yellowstone: The Official Dutton Ranch Family Cookbook is available now wherever books are sold.