About Us

Since 2018, Perch has focused on sourcing the highest quality ingredients and products from trusted local fishermen and regional farmers and producers. Enjoy our elevated menu featuring steaks and coastal seafood and hand crafted cocktails—combined with a perfect sunset, this experience cannot be duplicated anywhere but here on the Gulf Coast.

Executive Chef James Balster

The Connecticut native comes to Gulf Shores from Biloxi, Mississippi where he honed his skills at the Beau Rivage Casino, an MGM International Resort. Classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Balster also learned the art of cooking as a Chef at the renowned Ritz Carlton, Reynolds Plantation and Circa at DuPont, in Washington D.C.

James’ pursuit of his culinary career stems from spending time with family. “The first experience I remember about cooking was on my grandparent’s farm in Iowa,” says Balster. Cooking was always a family event growing up. All family gatherings seemed to end up in the kitchen or at the table, and always involving a large meal. Being a part of the creation of these amazing times brought me closer to my family, and I realized that it made unforgettable memories by making people happy.” James is still in pursuit of creating memories for his guests by making them happy.

Chef Balster has many favorite recipes he likes to prepare, and he relishes in designing experiences that are unique and satisfy the most discerning palate. When dining at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, make a point to try a daily Chef’s special which always includes local and regionally sourced ingredients and always is a representation of The Lodge’s support of local farmers, fishers, ranchers, and producers.

Balster has received several accolades, including the Distinguished Restaurants of North America Award and Forbes’ Recommended Best Chefs.

Chef Balster has led the culinary efforts at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, A Hilton Hotel, as part of the pre-opening team. The Lodge officially opened November 1, 2018.

Executive Sous Chef Brad Gilstrap

Culinary veteran Brad Gilstrap brings over 30 years of experience to The Lodge at Gulf State Park, A Hilton Hotel.

A native of Monroe, Louisiana, Gilstrap graduated from the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. He began his collegiate studies at the University of Louisiana Monroe, majoring in Business Administration with a minor in Art.

Brad’s introduction to the culinary world was through his mother and grandmother, who were very versatile cooks. He learned cooking techniques and flavor profiles from them, and still remembers the wonderful aromas of their culinary creations.

Brad’s father owned a restaurant equipment business, and he began working for his dad at age 10 until attending Nicholls State at the age of 21.

Gilstrap honed his culinary skills at a variety of locations in the United States, including New Orleans, Daphne, Alabama, Gulf Shores, Alabama and Washington, Maine. His favorite culinary experience was New Orleans, which he considers a mecca of food styles.

Brad has been an integral part of the culinary efforts at The Lodge at Gulf State Park since the pre-opening stage. The Lodge officially opened November 1, 2018.