L.A.’s Restaurant Community Mourns the Loss of Mark Peel, Pioneer of California Cuisine

Mark Peel. Photo by Elise Thompson.

According to The LA Times, Chef Mark Peel, co-founder of Campanile, died Sunday afternoon at the age of 66. He was diagnosed with cancer only nine days before his passing.

In 2009, I had the honor of attending an event for the release of a cookbook featuring recipes from his famous family-style Monday Night Dinners at his beloved LA restaurant, Campanile. The restaurant closed in 2012. Since that time, I have been lucky enough to taste his food and have a quick chat with him at numerous food events. He was never too busy for his customers.

The last time I saw him, he was trotting down the steps at Grand Central market with an enormous fish slung over his shoulder. I was tickled to see such a noted chef doing his own heavy lifting.

He was a pioneer of California cuisine, with its focus on fresh, local ingredients. Peel began his foray into the revolutionary new cooking movement with Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison in 1975, and was part of the team that opened Michael’s in Santa Monica (Which was featured, with an appearance by Peel, in the recent Top Chef Oregon). It was at Michael’s that he met his longtime wife and collaborator, Nancy Silverton. He then worked the kitchen of perhaps the restaurant most emblematic of California Cuisine, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, before becoming the chef de cuisine of Spago in 1981.

(L to R) Jonathan Gold, Mark Peel, Octavio Becerra, Susan Feniger and Vinny Dotolo. Photo by Elise Thompson.










Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton went on to open La Brea Bakery and Campanile in 1989, which was at the forefront of LA’s move towards modern farm-to-table. which he co-founded with his then-wife Nancy Silverton in 1989. Over two decades and a James Beard award later, Campanile closed and Peel opened Tar Pit, a cocktail lounge, followed by the Point, a deli, and finally settled in at Prawn Coastal at Grand Central Market. He has also authored several cookbooks, and both competed in and judged Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. He also appeared on Hell’s Kitchen, Knife Fight, and Kitchen Nightmares

The Los Angeles restaurant community is devastated by this loss and is posting their condolences on social media. Food Writer Eddie Lin says,

“I’m very saddened to learn that Mark Peel has passed. He was a legendary chef but also so much more. I always loved seeing him at food events. He and I were judges for the amazing Grilled Cheese Invitational. We had a great time that day. He was a joy to be around and will be missed immensely. My deepest condolences to his family and friends. The restaurant world mourns tonight. Rest In Peace, Mark.”

Local Chef Jason Fullilove posted a touching farewell,

“I’m speechless. All I can say is thank you. Thank you for being the best chef role model and father figure I could ever ask for. You’ve inspired generations of chefs and you will always be loved. Until we meet again.”  ·

Prawn Coastal Cuisine, Chef Mark Peel at The Taste. Photo by Elise Thompson.









Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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