By Chester Simpson
“Chef’s Special” with Chef Peter Durkin
1106 King St.
Old Town Alexandria
When did you first become interested in cooking and what made you choose a culinary career?
I was about twenty and I had friends that had gone to the Culinary Institute of America and so I followed suit. I have been doing it ever since. I also used to help my mother in the kitchen as well.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration during your career?
I would say, what sounds outdated now but was called at the time, The California cuisine – fresh and seasonal. The culinary chef’s Alice Water’s inspired me. For four decades, Alice Waters, restaurateur and food activist, was at the forefront of the now flourishing locally grown, organic food movement. She is the owner of Chez Panisse, a Berkeley, California restaurant famous for its organic, locally grown ingredients and for pioneering California cuisine.
Dish on the menu you are most curious to see how it’s received?
Steak Diane – it has just been added to the dinner menu.
What do you feel sets your cuisine apart from others in your field?
I have been a chef all of my life. I would say that my two favorite things in the world are food and beverages.
You have to have the right purveyors, great people and organizations that supplies our restaurant with fresh seasonal ingredients. You have to insist on quality. We try to source local product, the fresher the better.
I’ve always loved to cook and I’ve loved to eat and I like being around food. I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of changes.in cooking and the current rage, Farm to Table is a force to be reckoned with it. The main thing is the procurement of the best and freshest ingredients. You have to have great ingredients, if you want to have great food and know how to cook.
If any chef in the world (past or present) could prepare a meal for you, who would you want that to be?
What if I was to say, my wife, Tammy? We have another business, Lavender Moon Cupcakery, on 116 South Royal Street. A cupcake shop, which we’re both involved, in that project too.
Tammy realized a need for a “cupcakery” in Alexandria, using creative combinations of flavor like chocolate, peach and basil, and some with honey, yogurt and local ingredients to create quality treats.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
I’ll get in trouble for this but it’s a….“Chilly Cheese Dog”!
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