by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 2, 2005
Chef/owner Peter Hoffman grew up in a family that loved good food. His parents’ cooking was neither fussy nor pretentious, but instead focused on using good ingredients. Peter’s father used a healthy dose of garlic in his cooking, whereas his mom’s style was more idiosyncratic. She was into “health food” in an era before healthy cooking was commonplace, like it is today. Growing up in New Jersey, his family would visit New York to experience the various and culturally diverse cuisines offered in the city. This gave Peter an introduction to different foods early on and helped him realize that food is an entry point into other cultures.
In college he studied history and natural sciences. Although now a chef, his studies are still relevant and continue to inform his interest in cooking, such as learning where various foods come from, why and how things grow a certain way, and how food manifests itself as a cultural form. It is his continued passion for both disciplines that fuels his drive to explore. He believes that more than the meal itself it’s the story and history that surrounds the food that makes the meal a richer experience. Understanding the context of what you’re eating helps you appreciate the overall experience.
Savoy opened in 1990, concentrating on seasonal dishes inspired by the Mediterranean — the culturally diverse cuisines of Southern Europe and Asia Minor. Back then Savoy was one of few establishments to offer market-based cuisine in New York City. And so yet another dimension to Peter emerged. Savoy allowed him to share his artistic inspirations with the public, figuring out what’s in season and what he could make with it, like having a palette of ingredients to use as the painter uses colors.
Peter’s cooking focuses on simplicity; transforming the product from point A to point B to make it edible, but not cooking or infusing anything for too long. He does this by allowing ingredients to speak for themselves, and doesn’t disguise or smother them with heavy sauces or dressings. In this manner Peter has not only been sharing good food with New York City for the past fifteen years, but also educating us about sustainable cuisine – a truly original contributor to the culinary world.
Click here to read about our craving from Peter Hoffman at Savoy.