Executive Chef Peter Spear loves the freedom and creativity that he has with cooking.
At the same time, the executive chef of the Walden Grille says he never stops learning and reading about the cooking industry and how he can revamp dishes with newer techniques of cooking.
In fact, continuously reading and learning about cooking is so important to the Chicago native that he advises new chefs in the industry to "never stop learning and to always ask questions."
Mild-mannered and polite, Spear has just started his new career at the Walden Grille, as he relocated to Concord from North Carolina in May, where he was executive chief and director of culinary operations for the Franklin Hotel in Chapel Hill, N.C. for one year.
Asked what brought him to Concord, and Spear answers simply that he "was looking for a change."
While the job requires long hours — between 50 and 70 a week — Spear acknowledges that isn't the most challenging aspect of the job.
You have to "constantly be on top of the game so you how to change and keep things fresh and vibrant, so you keep people coming back," he said of the most difficult part of his job.
Established in 1986, The Walden Grille — located at 24 Walden St. — is best described as a "progressive bistro," according to Spear, with a variety of salads, soups, sandwiches, entrees and daily specials.
Spear said the Grille serves fresh fish, beef, short ribs, fresh sandwiches and other dishes.
"We try to cater to vegetarians," Spear said by offering vegetarian choices. "We try to cover the areas of food for everybody, so you are not limited to one choice."
Because there are only three people in the kitchen during the week: Spear, a cook and a dishwasher, Spear is very involved in the cooking of the food, and no day is typical for him.
For example, some mornings he is preparing sauces and stocks, others he is cutting calamari. Each day brings a new set of work, but it is clear Spear enjoys his line of work as he speaks of his job with passion and dedication to his field.
Fresh food comes into the restaurant on a daily basis as Spear works with four purveyors on food selections.
In addition to his cooking responsibilities, Spear also creates the dishes on the menu and must come with at least eight specials on a daily basis, which are served at lunch and dinner.
Love of cooking
Spear's passion for cooking came at an early age as he observed his dad, who was a chef in a restaurant tour.
"It was what I grew up doing," he said of cooking.
In preparing a wide variety of dishes, Spear says he particularly enjoys making Shrimp & Grits, which consists of pan-seared shrimp, creamy polenta, sautéed arugula, tomato jam and smoked sea salt.
However, the most popular dish on the menu is New England Clam Chowder. But, according to Spear, this is not a traditional clam chowder as he adds a unique twist to the dish by adding chowder ice cream on top of the clam, and sautéing fresh clam meat and putting it back in the clam.
Spear received his certification from the Culinary Institute of America and the American Culinary Federation
But his goal in the future is to take the master chef exam, which will enable him to become a certified master chef.
Like every job with its fair set of challenges, Spear said overcoming them all depends on taking the "good with the bad and figuring out how to fix the bad and make something good out of it."
Quick Chilled Cucumber and Feta soup
3 English Cucumbers (Peeled)
1 Cup Feta Cheese
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
A small bunch of dill
salt and pepper to taste
- First you peel the cucumber and cut into small pieces to fit in the food
- Next give the dill a quick rough chop and the put it in the food processor,
- Then add the rest of the items and pulse the food processor until the items
get to a soup consistency.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.