LA’s Mark Peel taught young people how to be great cooks and decent human beings, says Wolfgang Puck

Mark Peel in Pasadena. He was known for sourcing seasonal vegetables directly from local farms and fusing different cultural foods. Photo by Melehuna/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

LA chef and restaurateur Mark Peel died Sunday after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 66 years old. Peel helped define the concept of California cuisine, sourcing seasonal vegetables directly from local farms and experimenting with the fusion of different cultural foods. In the 1980s, he worked as a cook and chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. Then he opened Campanile, the famous Italian restaurant on La Brea Avenue, with his then-wife and fellow chef Nancy Silverton. The two also opened La Brea Bakery in 1989.

Famed restaurateur and chef Wolfgang Puck says he last saw Peel on Saturday. “We are like brothers. We were very good friends until the end. On Saturday when I was at a hospital there, I kissed him goodbye and didn't think he was gonna die a few hours later. … I said, ‘Okay, I see on Sunday, and maybe when you get better we will cook together again.”

Puck says he first met Peel when he was a student at Cal Poly Pomona, when he worked part-time at Ma Maison. After working together for the last few decades, Puck says Peel left an indelible mark on himself and the rest of the cooking world.

“He was such a big influence on me. ... Most of all, I think he was a really decent, kind human being too. He wasn't a guy who was crazy. He was a great teacher. He loved to teach young people the craft [and] the techniques of cooking.”

He adds, “He made a really big impact on our restaurant world, on a lot of chefs. He was a great teacher, which is really an important part, I think. So what he left in his legacy teaching so many young people, not only to be great cooks, to learn the technique, but also to be decent human beings.”