Brian Peterson of Cork
Chef Brian Peterson moved to Arizona after graduating from college in Chicago -- and instantly hated it. He expected to stay for six months. Instead, Peterson embarked on an eleven year culinary adventure that took him through Lon's at the Hermosa, the Boulders Resort and Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club before he opened his own restaurant, Cork, in south Chandler.
"I was young. I was used to the Chicago city life and the food," Peterson explains. "Now my favorite thing is being part of the growth, seeing different chefs come here. I'm probably not going anywhere for a while."
Chef Peterson took some time away from Cork (and the Chicago Bears game) this past weekend to chat with us about his cooking dreams, favorite foods and Cork's unusual menu.
Early exposure: I grew up cooking for survival because my mom could not cook. We ate out in restaurants almost every night. My grandma could cook. I would cook with her on the weekends and learn from her.
Did you always want to be a chef? From five or six years old, I always wanted to be in the restaurant business. I used to talk with my grandma and grandpa about owning a hot dog cart, walking down the beach selling hot dogs.
Favorite foods: When I was a kid I loved hot dogs. Being from Chicago, chili cheese fries were always delicious. As I got a little bit older and went on vacations with my parents, my tastes progressed.
What dishes do you prefer now? My favorite foods change all the time. It's what I find new, what I come up with. Bay scallops we're getting from New Zealand are my favorite food right now.
How are they prepared at Cork? Raw, marinated with some olive oil and citrus. Salt, pepper, a little jalapeno and fennel.
Are there any foods you won't eat? I hate olives. It's very rare you see any kind of olive on our menu. If you do, it's for other people, not for myself.
Whoever in the kitchen is inspired by olives, they can have a blast. But I won't touch it!
Chicago food you can't live without: I used to get my pizza FedExed from Chicago out here. On dry ice. I don't now because I don't want to pay for it anymore.
What brought you to Phoenix? I got a culinary degree and a Bachelors degree in food & beverage management in Chicago. When I lived out there, my parents helped me with rent because I was living in the city. After I graduated, they said 'now you're on your own. Or, you can move to Arizona and live with us for a while and save some money.'
Perks of going to college and culinary school: I was glad that I learned the management side of things, so you can see what's going on in the front of the house, and the back of the house. Learning how to do labor, scheduling, customer service. It's all helpful now.
What's the most popular dish at Cork? Our menu is varied. We sell a lot of wild game. Elk, antelope, ostrich. I was really surprised, for Chandler.
We opened middle of the range, not pushing the envelope. Now one of our best sellers is the spontaneous chef's tasting menu. Customers come in and leave it up to us. They get five courses. The nice thing about that is that if you come in with four people, that's 20 different dishes.
Check back tomorrow for part two of our interview with Chef Brian Peterson, and get a special one-of-a-kind recipe from him on Thursday.
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