Hotel Chef Peter Rudolph
Campton Place | San Francisco
East Bay native Peter Rudolph was introduced to fresh produce and seasonality by way of the abundance of ripe fruit and vegetables in his grandparents’ garden. This early influence is evident at Campton Place, wherehe carries the mantle of innovative California Cuisine with dishes that are equal parts-ingredient and technique-driven. While mentors Gunter Seeger and Joel Antunes taught him techniques, respect for ingredients and culinary daring, he cites his local farmers as the base of everything he does.
After graduation from the California Culinary Academy in 1995 he took a position in pastry at Brasserie Savoy in San Francisco with Chef Dean Max. For the jump into savory he headed to The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead, Atlanta, working first with Gunter Seeger and then Jöel Antunes. In 2000 he became Sous Chef at Jer-ne in The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey working under Chef Troy Thompson; most recently he was Chef de Cuisine at Navio in the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay.
He joined Campton Placeas Executive Chef in 2006, following the rather large footsteps of Laurent Manrique and Daniel Humm – since the move Peter has immersed himself in high-concept technique and developed a talent for stunning plating. His sense of playfulness is evident in dishes like his squid risotto, which isn’t a risotto at all but actually tiny rice grain-size pieces of squid cooked in their own inky sauce. He pairs it with a slow-poached egg yolk that breaks over the rice for depth, richness and color and garnishes with a delicate parmesan tuile that shatters into pieces to season each mouthful.
WB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
PR: After I graduated from CCA, I started as a pastry cook at the Brasserie Savoy in San Francisco under Chef Dean Max, but I wanted to do more than just pastry so I took the opportunity to work at The Dining Room in the Ritz-Carlton in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, first with Chef Gunter Seeger and then with Chen Joel Atunes. In 2000 I took a Sous Chef position at Jer-ne in the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey. I then moved to Navio at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay as Executive Chef.
WB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you hire chefs without a culinary school background?
PR: I graduated CCA in 1993 – I think it’s really helpful because it gives you a solid introduction and framework for cooking and helps you establish connections. I only have one guy in my kitchen who didn’t go to culinary school.
WB: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
PR: Gunter Seeger taught me to have respect for ingredients and what I’m cooking, Joel Atunes taught me a lot about technique and how to blend flavors, especially abnormal flavors because he is such a fearless chef. Troy Thompson taught me that a chef shouldn’t have any reservation or hesitation in the kitchen – just do it.
WB: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re interviewing them for a position in your kitchen?
PR: I want to know if they are honest, hardworking, and truthful about their goals. Only 1% actually mean it. Their one day stage is the most important element.
WB: Is there any ingredient that you feel is particularly under appreciated or under
PR: Olive oil is my favorite ingredient. It can take on so many different flavors – it can be nutty, grassy, sweet, bitter. I especially like Italian varieties like Picholine and Castello di Ama. Nuts like pine nuts and walnuts are also important. They’re so versatile, they can be uses for puree, stocks, consommé, popcorn, whatever. They have a certain inexplicable, unexplored umami.
WB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
PR: Milk and olive oil, sugar and olive oil, and eggs and olive oil.
WB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
PR: My farmers, my cooks and my brain. Things that are precise and exact like plate wipes, rulers, pointed spoons and chopsticks. I use a cast iron skillet for everything. I can’t use anything else. I really want a plancha.
WB: Is there a technique that you have either created of borrowed and used in an unusual way?
PR: I really like wood smoking.
WB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
PR: Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz and Alain Ducasse.
WB: Where to you like to go for culinary travel? Why?
PR: My Trois Gros meal on my 1998 trip to France was an eye opening experience. I would like to go eat my way through Italy to experience the artisanship there and all through all the Paris 3 star restaurants. I would like to go to Spain as well.
WB: What are your favorite restaurants off-the-beaten-path in your city?
PR: Brothers for Korean, Bocadillo, La Taqueria, and My Tofu House.
WB: Which person would you most like to have dinner with?
PR: I’m attracted to people who specialize in anarchy and the philosophy of shape because that’s what cooking is all about. I think in terms of shape and numbers when I’m cooking, so I’d like to eat with anyone who would appreciate that.
WB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
PR: I love protocol and tradition, but that all gets set aside for the guest experience. You need to do whatever you need to and everything you can to keep the people eating your food happy.
WB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
PR: Plates are framing – presentation really affects a dish. When you want to know how to plate a certain dish, ask the vegetable you’re using. I’m inspired by natural form, and I let the shape and feel of the vegetable dictate my final product. Cooking is a creative process – you have to dream it up, taste what you’ve got, tweak it, and do it again. I think that more and more chefs are starting to use that approach.
WB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for you?
PR: To run a successful restaurant you have to be creative and be a dreamer above all else. Personally, I want to be a good dad and husband, make money, and be comfortable.
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