Interview: Chef Peter Laufer of Washington DC's Café du Parc

'Every day is different and comes with different challenges and areas for growth, opportunity and innovation'
 Chef Peter Laufer
Café du Parc
Peter Laufer is the executive chef of Washington, D.C.’s historic Intercontinental Willard Hotel's Cafe’ du Parc. Laufer is a certified executive chef member of the American Culinary Federation, the Chaine des Rotisseurs, and was President of the Professional Chefs Association of Houston. The chef has been with various Intercontinental hotels throughout his career.
The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?
Peter Laufer: My family is all in the steel business and I wanted a job where I wasn’t in the cold. Haha. My sister was doing an apprenticeship in a hotel and she really enjoyed the environment and the opportunities, thus I wanted to try it too. I wanted to combine my desire to see the world and work in different countries, and being a chef is perfect for that. So I did an internship in a restaurant in Munich and the rest is history.


Do you have a specialty dish?
Schnitzel was a staple item throughout my childhood. Though there are a variety of recipes on how to properly make schnitzel, my top tips to making the perfect schnitzel is to use European Butter and Italian bread crumbs.


Do you have a specialty dish at Café du Parc?
Pan Seared Scallops & Seabass with spinach corn chowder and candied bacon. Also, both lobster dishes. The Lobster Sandwich, and the Lobster tower. I revived the storied Willard Room lobster, which was incredibly popular for years among diners, thus I chose to reintroduce it in varying forms. The lobster sandwich is stuffed with Maine lobster meat, avocado, tomato, lettuce and a touch of brandy. At dinner, butter poached Maine lobster appears in the form of a tower – stacked high on brioche croutons and drizzled with a Cognac sauce.


What kind of atmosphere do you create in the kitchen?
The environment I have created in the kitchen here at Café du Parc, and at the Willard InterContinental as a whole, is a team environment. Family style,
What do you look for when hiring chefs?
Personality. It’s all about attitude. For me it doesn’t matter if you went to culinary school. You can teach culinary skills, but you can’t teach personality.


What is your favorite spice?
My steak seasoning. I put it on everything! Aside from steak, it can go on salmon, steak, and pork.


These words sum up my approach to food:
Innovative is a key way to differentiate your product and approach. Sustainable is simply the core value I bring to the table. My cuisine is locally sourced and globally inspired. The approach is influenced by all of my culinary travel experiences to date. These include European, Pacific, Southwestern - Northern and Latin America and I am drawn to exotic spices used in North Africa and the Middle East. Creating my own sauces and spice blends, adding quality and support to local producers.


What keeps you cooking?
The passion to cook, the people, and the smiles I see when one is enjoying a great meal. Every day is different and comes with different challenges and areas for growth, opportunity and innovation. Keeps me on my toes!