It's been 20 years since chef Mark Peel opened Campanile inside of an office building originally conceived by Charlie Chaplin. Today, we find Peel hotter than ever, with national and local exposure cranked past ten and no halt in sight to his creative output. As the debut of Peel's latest recipe collection and restaurant The Point is upon us, with a new bar coming to Hollywood next month from the chef, we thought it would be prudent to detail in five simple steps why Mark Peel is our man of the moment as we continue to watch him rise from our local hero to an international celebrity chef.
1) A New Cookbook: At a release party for Peel's latest cookbook, New Classic Family Dinners last night, co-author Martha Rose Shulman explained how she sat for two years in Campanile's prep kitchen meticulously asking Peel to quantify ingredient measurements, as the chef appeared to cook over 200 recipes from instinct during his Monday Night Family Dinners. The two have organized a gorgeous collection of comfort favorites from seasonal salads to fresh takes on tortilla Espanola, beer-braised brisket, real clams casino, lobster pot pie, Boston cream pie, and the simple preparation of side vegetables. Every recipe was tested in Peel's home kitchen, leading him to tell us,"That's how we know it works, since so many [cookbooks] do not." A sound education for beginners and an involving study for home chefs, New Classic Family Dinners is now available and could soon be noted as a classic itself.
2) A New Eatery: Peel's new casual restaurant The Point is set to open this Thursday. Peel has partnered with manager Jay Perrin to bring his "renowned New American cuisine without the silver & white linen." This means Peel's recipes for quiches, sandwiches like his famous grilled cheese, and soups and salads will be available throughout the day and made affordable, along with wines less than ten and twenty dollars a bottle. Planned for Culver City's office workers, The Point will close at six p.m. but Perrin told us last month that evenings spent over charcuterie and Italian aperitifs might be offered. Here's a PDF of The Point's planned menu. 8522 National Blvd., Ste 100 Culver City, CA. 90232
3) Serious Airtime: We can't seem to keep Peel off of our small screen. In the last three months alone, he seems to have been on every cooking challenge show we watch. We glimpsed him winning accolades for a duck egg pasta and Thai snapper with sake on Top Chef Masters , while just barely falling short of the finals. A few weeks later, Peel was judging the tater-peeling Quickfire Challenge in Top Chef's new season, reminiscent of his days skinning veggies for Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison. Last week Peel scored a televised hat-trick with a featured Hell's Kitchen appearance. We're hoping that next comes Mark Peel: The Animated Series or some other variation that will bathe him in lights.
4) A Forthcoming Bar: We discovered plans for The Tar Pit, a forthcoming Peel/Perrin nightlife collaboration, last month while being introduced to The Point. The Hollywood-based bar plans to revisit the speakeasy era, as Perrin tells us the town has "never gotten it right" in his eyes. Scheduled for a November open, the website is up with little detail as to what to expect, though in these hands, we expect the top-tier of quality and can only hope for a lower tier of cocktail prices. Peel has had massive success in the 600 block on South LaBrea, let's hope he can do the same for the northern end with The Tar Pit. 609 N. La Brea Ave. Los Angeles, CA. 90036
5) Campanile: Surviving five years in the L.A. restaurant scene is seldom done, let alone the 20 years Campanile has thrived. Observing the startling number of "For Lease" signs and empty strip malls on LaBrea, it is impressive to see how fresh this local legend still remains. At Peel's book release, the tables were full, the building still charms throughout with its appearance, and the restaurant refuses to rest on its laurels, still introducing new menu nights every month and throwing enough inspiration into the kitchen to keep regulars guessing at which dish will make an appearance next. Down to the martini that uses Peel's laborious recipe for natural pomegranate syrup (possibly something we'll see more of at The Tar Pit), the chef remains involved and committed to pushing himself and his flagship restaurant to new turf.