Chef Q&A: Peter Marek

Peter Marek, owner and chef of Marek's Restaurant on Marco Island, displays a Warm Goat Cheese Salad with sundried cranberries, pecans and drizzled with house dressing.

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Peter Marek, owner and chef of Marek's Restaurant on Marco Island, displays a Warm Goat Cheese Salad with sundried cranberries, pecans and drizzled with house dressing.

Peter Marek, owner and chef of Marek's Restaurant on Marco Island, displays a Warm Goat Cheese Salad with sundried cranberries, pecans and drizzled with house dressing.

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Peter Marek, owner and chef of Marek's Restaurant on Marco Island, displays a Warm Goat Cheese Salad with sundried cranberries, pecans and drizzled with house dressing.

Chilean Sea Bass with teriyaki garlic marinade on wasabi sweet chili sauce from Marek's Restaurant on Marco Island.

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Chilean Sea Bass with teriyaki garlic marinade on wasabi sweet chili sauce from Marek's Restaurant on Marco Island.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with sundried cranberries, pecans and drizzled with house dressing from Marek's Restaurant on Marco Island.

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with sundried cranberries, pecans and drizzled with house dressing from Marek's Restaurant on Marco Island.

Marek's Collier House

1121 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco

Restaurant: Marek’s Collier House Restaurant, 1121 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island. Phone: 642-9948

TITLE: EXECUTIVE CHEF

Began working at present restaurant:

Twelve years, my wife Penny and I restored Captain Bill Collier’s home and opened the restaurant on December 15, 1995.

Where did you do your training?

At the Savoy Hotel in London, England.

Who or what inspired you to become a chef/cook?

I suppose my guardian. My parents and I lived in Kenya when they sent me to boarding school in London and because I was a minor a guardian was appointed, a wonderful Czech woman who liked to bake cakes for charity and give them away, and I used to help her. She was awarded the MBE for her charitable works by the Queen in Washington D.C. Helping her, I got interested in cooking.

What was your first restaurant job?

I was a COMIS — the lowest of the low, a learner — in the Savoy Hotel in London. The chef put me in the Poissonier Section of the kitchen, preparing anything to do with any kinds of fish or seafood

How long have you been cooking professionally?

Thirty-plus years.

How would you describe your cooking style?

I was trained in classic French but I like to interpret it with a more contemporary awareness.

What is your most popular dish?

My Chilean Sea Bass, probably because it’s a Chef’s Specialty Entrée on the menu — fresh fillet of Chilean Sea Bass glazed with a Garlic Teriyaki marinade and served with a Sweet Orange Chili Sauce on a bed of Pureed Potato flavored with Wasabi, garnished with Oriental Rice Threads and fresh seasonal veggies.

What is your favorite snack?

I like chocolates, especially the Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate Fingers, because as a kid my guardian sent me them for a treat when I was at boarding school.

Do you cook at home? If so, what would we always find in your freezer?

Yes, but not often because Penny says I make too much of a mess. Regarding the freezer, nothing, simply nothing in there. If we had a hurricane I’d starve to death.

What is your specialty? Why?

Chocolate work. You know the intricate, modeling and creating shapes and objects from chocolate to make centerpieces for special occasions. I won the Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt for the Isle of Jersey — it was 300 hours of work!

What annoys you most in the kitchen?

I love to cook, but I hate the clean up.

What was your worst kitchen disaster?

It occurred when I was the COMIS at the Savoy: It was my first job and the chef told me to open oysters for 1,000 people. I was intimidated when I saw bags filled with 6,000 oysters and I croaked “Me?” And the chef answered “That’s why you’re here.” I thought there was no way I’d get through this but gave it my best effort. Suddenly, after an hour he sent in people to help.

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

I think, after all these years, even though it was a hard night: an evening gone badly. You stop everything, relieved you got through it and it suddenly turns into that feeling of accomplishment — It was worth it!

• • •

Marek’s Chef Specialty Entrée Chilean Sea Bass includes fresh fillet of Chilean Sea Bass glazed with a Garlic Teriyaki marinade and served with a Sweet Orange Chili Sauce on a bed of Pureed Potato flavored with Wasabi -- garnished with Oriental Rice Threads and fresh seasonal veggies.

Chef Peter Marek’s popular Warm Goats Cheese Salad includes warm nuggets of Almond Encrusted Goats Cheese served on a bed of caramelized grilled Red Onion Confit garnished with mixed Garden Greens tossed with a Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Marek’s Collier House dessert menu features a variety of flavored Crème Brulle including Grand Marnier, Banana and Rum, and Chocolate topped with classic crisp and crackly caramelized sugar topping.

Marek’s Collier House Signature Crab Crowned Filet Mignon includes Filet Mignon topped with freshly-picked Blue Crab served on a pillow of garlic-flavored Creamed Potatoes, draped with piquant Béarnaise Sauce and served with seasonal veggies.

Chef Peter Marek’s Specialty Entrée Lobster and Shrimp Bonne Femme includes fresh Maine Lobster with Jumbo Gulf Shrimp presented in the shell in a White Wine and Mushroom Sauce sprinkled with cheese and gratineed.

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