After 22 years in the kitchen at Berkeley's landmark of California cuisine, Chez Panisse, chef Cal Peternell is leaving his post in the downstairs restaurant kitchen effective July 5. Peternell tells Inside Scoop that he "wanted to go while I was still loving it," and that he's looking forward to "do[ing] my own thing a little bit. And really just find out what that thing is."
It's unclear if he'll be returning to any restaurant kitchen in the near or distant future right now his projects include a cookbook, his third, and the launch of a podcast called "Cooking By Ear," in which he wants to teach people how to "cook with pleasure." He also mentions a "pie-in-the-sky" idea to open a cooking school where young cooks could be paired with industry veterans in the Bay Area and work under a scholarship, hopefully alleviating the issue of finding talented young cooks and being able to pay them a wage that lets them live here comfortably.
The downstairs restaurant at Chez Panisse has for many years operated with a co-chef arrangement, with two chefs at one point handing off the kitchen every six months this was under the leadership of David Tanis and Jean-Pierre Moullé, the latter of whom spent half his year in Bordeaux, France. Both chefs departed the kitchen about five years ago, with Peternell taking the reigns first alongside Jerome Waag, both of whom came up in what Alice Waters calls "the Chez Panisse teaching kitchen," and more recently Amy Dencler.
Peternell first came to work at the restaurant in 1995, ultimately getting promoted to head chef at the upstairs Café in 2009, and head co-chef downstairs in 2012. As the Scoop notes, he now joins the distinguished list of Chez Panisse alumni that includes Bay Area chefs Russell Moore, Charlie Hallowell, and Bakesale Betty's Alison Barakat, as well as other nationally known notables like Tanis, Jonathan Waxman, Suzanne Goin, April Bloomfield, Mark Peel, Jeremiah Tower, and Dan Barber.
In his last six weeks at Chez Panisse, Peternell promises a series of menus inspired by former chefs at the restaurants, including one this Wednesday inspired by the work of his mentor, Jean-Pierre Moullé.