Looking Good in the Kitchen
Kurt Peter, Executive Chef, Westin Annapolis Hotel
By Theresa Winslow
Photograph by David Hartcorn
Cooking wasn’t always a tasty career choice for Chef Kurt Peter. He started working in restaurants at age fourteen, but knew life as a chef was tough and, preparing for a career outside of the kitchen, went to Lynchburg College for sports management and business. He played lacrosse there, as well at St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis, where he also played ice hockey. After college, he worked in stadium operations for a minor league baseball team. But he missed the camaraderie of the kitchen and eventually enrolled in the culinary arts program at Anne Arundel Community College. He became sous chef at the Westin three years ago, after making a pan-seared rockfish as part of the application. Since August 2015, he has served as executive chef and will unveil a new spring menu this month. He’s responsible for the hotel’s Azure Restaurant, the bar/lounge, banquets, and room service. Ultimately, Chef Peter would like a restaurant of his own, but for the foreseeable future he’s driven to prepare the best meals possible for guests. His key to looking good in the kitchen? Supportive shoes and socks, confidence, and “respecting” the food. Thin crust pepperoni pizza is his guilty takeout pleasure.
LGM: Do you ever regret leaving sports and doing this?
Chef Peter: No . . . this is kind of my path. It’s in my blood.
LGM: What personality traits do you bring to being a chef?
Chef Peter: [I’m] trustworthy. I care about the products, the employees. I’m very driven, kind of self-motivated, and very competitive. I guess that’s from playing sports at a young age.
LGM: How does competition translate to being a chef?
Chef Peter: You want to be the best. You want to work hard and put great products out that people respect.
LGM: When the kitchen is running well and all sixteen people are chugging along, what would you compare it to? Is it like a sports team?
Chef Peter: It’s very much like a sports team; a well-oiled machine. Seeing the guys work the line or work on banquets, they have a feel for each other, just like the players on the same sports team.
LGM: Are you the manager, or the star player, or both?
Chef Peter: Maybe a little combination of both; the team captain.
LGM: In any one day, how many items will you have a hand in cooking?
Chef Peter: It really depends on business, but I’d like to say I’m either tasting or helping prepare each thing that comes out of the kitchen. My hand is in all the recipes. Essentially, it’s my food someone else is putting out.
LGM: What’s your favorite thing to cook?
Chef Peter: I love to use local ingredients; a lot of seafood. I love to fish and hunt—a lot of game.
LGM: What’s your least favorite food?
Chef Peter: Growing up, I absolutely hated Brussels sprouts. I think every kid does. But I’ve learned to love them . . . I literally eat everything. I’m not a very picky eater. I used to be extremely picky when I was younger.
LGM: When people leave the restaurant or a banquet, what would you like them to say about the food?
Chef Peter: That they had a memorable experience. That’s something I try to express through the food.
LGM: What do you think good food can do? Why is food so important to people?
Chef Peter: It’s a way of life. It brings people together.