He appeared on season one of Top Chef Masters, recently released a cookbook, now chef Mark Peel is about to add non-speakeasy as his second property venture. Below he discusses The Tar Pit's new projected opening date, how he courted Audrey Saunders, and his highfalutin ice. Head here for recent photos of The Tar Pit including the almost finished bar.
1. You originally said The Tar Pit would open on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. Any correlation between the two? There is no Pearl Harbor significance. It was the soonest Monday we thought we might be ready. Now it seriously looks likely to be December 14.
2. On another note, congratulations on the new book. Any plans to incorporate that Campanile-esque cooking into The Tar Pit? We are pulling some dishes and themes from my new book, mostly things with an older and "classic" feel. I am also working with Audrey [Saunders] to come up with dishes that pair with specific cocktails.
3. You've owned Campanile for over 20 years. It seems that you're breaking away from tradition a bit with The Tar Pit. What are you hoping to accomplish in this new space? I never wanted to do another Campanile. It is a unique space. The Tar Pit, I believe, is an entirely new type of restaurant, not just a new concept. We are creating a restaurant where food and cocktails will not fight they will become mates.
4. How did you pair up with Audrey Saunders? I started doing my research. I went to San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York. When I sat down at the bar of Pegu Club I was struck by it's simplicity, beauty, lack of pretension, and by the bartenders obvious love of their craft. I had heard of Audrey by this time so I set about courting her.
5. The Tar Pit has a great Old Hollywood art deco feel. Was the design your idea? The look evolved through many meetings with Audrey, our designer Tracy Beckmann, and my partner Jay Perrin. The name alone took six months of "discussion".
6. Is Saunders already on site testing out recipes? Any signature cocktails planned? Audrey Saunders and her team, Christy Pope and Chad Solomon are here working on the cocktails. There are none I can share at this time though I think they are going to create the first drinkable cocktail made with Cynar, the artichoke liqueur.
7. How many beers do you think you'll have on tap? I think we will have 6 to 10 beers, none on tap. We want to be flexible.
8. We heard about your ice system with its reverse osmosis filtration and pebbles verses cubes. Was that a Saunders idea? I knew we needed the Kold-Draft machine with the 1 1/4" cubes, as did Audrey. Everything else was added by Audrey.
9. Anything other future plans we should know about? We are good for a while. We need to consolidate and ensure that what we do now is the best we can do.
— Compiled by Daniela Galarza