Mark Peel, Who Helped Forge a New Culinary Path, Dies at 66
Mark Peel, one of a handful of young, educated California cooks enamored with local ingredients who emerged in the 1970s and 1980s and created a looser, farm-focused style of cuisine that would change the trajectory of American food culture, died on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Mr. Peel worked at restaurants that would come to define California cuisine before anyone called it that, among them Spago, the star-studded West Hollywood restaurant that Wolfgang Puck opened in 1982.
19, 1954, to Fred and Cheryl Peel, schoolteachers who met when they were attending the University of California at Los Angeles.
He transferred to Cal Poly Pomona to study hotel and restaurant management but dropped out just shy of graduating to work in restaurants full time.
In 1975, a Los Angeles Times food writer told him to call Patrick Terrail, the owner of Ma Maison, one of the top restaurants in the city, where a young chef named Wolfgang Puck ran the kitchen.
In 1979, along with the chefs Jonathan Waxman and Ken Frank, he opened Michael’s in Santa Monica.
“It was a moment in California and in L.A.
Mr. Peel went to work at Chez Panisse in Berkeley to learn how that restaurant made its beloved pizzas.
The open kitchen, designed to make it seem like theater, was separated from diners only by a long, narrow counter.
“He was not like, ‘Oh, my God, here comes Henry Winkler or Stallone or Kirk Douglas,’” Mr. Puck said.
After a short stint in New York at Maxwell’s Plum, the couple returned to Los Angeles and in 1989 opened La Brea Bakery and Campanile in a crumbling faux-Andalusian building originally built by Charlie Chaplin.
Mr. Peel and Ms. Silverton lived above the restaurant so that they could juggle the needs of their two young children and the demands of an establishment that was closed only on Sunday.
Mr. Peel and Ms. Silverton personally made several million dollars from the deal and invested it with a Beverly Hills financial adviser, who, it turned out, was sending it all to Bernard Madoff.
They separated in 2017 and, at Mr. Peel’s death, were divorcing, Ms. Silverton-Peel said.
Mr. Peel co-wrote three books and appeared on several food television competition shows, as both a contestant and a judge.