Fabulous People: George Guo

George Guo is the executive chef at Taste of Beauty, a plant-based fine dining restaurant in Orange County where fresh, seasonal ingredients become art for the senses. “Taste of Beauty is a place where different cultures and cuisines blend and evolve. Where each plate is a canvas, and every meal is a masterpiece. Come, eat your art out.” Learn about George Guo…

Follow at: @tasteofbeautyrestaurant

Hometown: Shanghai, China

First job: I was an executive assistant to a Singapore investor. I helped him open a rubber manufacturing facility in Shanghai.

My favorite way to relax in California: Brewing a pot of tea, going to the beach with friends at sunset and meditating together while listening to the waves. I also enjoy hiking and foraging interesting plants like pine cones, deadwood, wildflowers and wild fruits. These often become fun ingredients for my cooking experiments or intriguing tea table decorations.

My greatest achievement and why: I have changed many people’s stereotypical views of plant-based food as bland and monotonous. I have even influenced some to adopt a plant-based diet. I’ve done that for many years in China, and now I’m doing it again in the U.S.

The biggest obstacle overcome: As one of the few plant-based fine dining restaurants in Southern California, I had no template for success or shortcuts to exploit. I began with insufficient funding, with little to no room for error. Making it more challenging, I’m doing all this in a foreign country with little network or cultural insights. It would be an impossible journey without my belief and passion for the planet. But, with many rounds of trial and error, we are making great headway. We just launched Taste of Beauty’s new 2024 Spring/Summer eight-course tasting menu. Each course depicts a geographical landscape and blends flavors from cuisines worldwide. This process taught me much about different cultures and how plants are used in many cuisines. It is the best gift I could ever ask for.

Who inspires me and why: Buddha Shakyamuni. After learning about Shakyamuni’s life story, I gained profound insights into all significant aspects of life: birth, aging, sickness and death. He is the reason I hold great respect, compassion and gratitude for all life on Earth. Thanks to his wisdom, I have also gained different perspectives on running a restaurant. I consider all challenges a test of my personal growth. Even when we were considering the best way to position a vegetarian restaurant to attract guests, I got inspiration from his writing. Shakyamuni believed wisdom follows desires. That’s why our tasting menu is a multidimensional experience first before it is a plant-based cuisine.

Advice for those pursuing a similar career: Be brave and break the norms. Keep doing what you believe is right. When feeling powerless, watch the movie Earthlings to recharge. 

What others are surprised to learn about me: I am not a strict vegetarian who opposes meat consumption. I don’t believe vegetarianism can solve all of the world’s problems or that eating meat is inherently wrong. I consider vegetarianism a corrective action in response to humans’ excessive meat-eating habits. Our overconsumption contributes to health issues, animal cruelty, the destruction of the livestock industry and climate change. These do not align with our purpose of living on Earth.

What makes someone outstanding: The ability to think independently, the courage to innovate, the awareness of self-reflection and the gratitude towards nature and all life forms.

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