#Foodisart at Sonesta, and seeing the culinary creations our hotels come up with is one of our favorite parts of what we do. Our culinary teams are continually inspired by the seasons and destinations where they live and work, and their menus reflect that inspiration and passion for creating edible works of art.
Today we get to know Executive Chef Peter Laufer, The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta St. Louis’s new chef. Read below to learn about his professional experience, path to becoming a chef, and his culinary inspiration.
How did you get started in the culinary field? What has the road to becoming an Executive Chef looked like for you?
I was 16, back in Munich, Germany when my career started, when I did a summer intern program in a large restaurant in Munich’s City Center. Once I was finished with school I started my 3 year apprenticeship in a small privately owned Hotel, just outside of Munich “ Hotel Bauer in Feldkirchen”. From that point on, I was driven not only to see different places with position in hotels and restaurants in Germany and Switzerland, but I later ventured out to see the world. In my early twenties I started as Executive Sous Chef on a brand-New Cruise Ship the Dreamward, (NCL) that when I really experienced not only different cuisines but also working with people from all over the world. I was one of the youngest Executive Chefs in the industry and moved from ship to ship with different itineraries and ports of call. Experiencing the local cuisine, markets were always one of my priorities when visiting some of the most beautiful places. In early 2000, I transitioned to the land life starting with Intercontinental Hotels in Miami and Houston, then the Royal Sonesta Houston. After 12 years in Houston I moved to Washington DC to be the Executive Chef at the Willard Hotel. After a brief career as Director of Food and Beverage at the newly opened Hilton DC National Mall, my career stopped for a while when Covid hit. I accepted the position here at The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta late June of 2021 and I am thrilled to be back with Sonesta and to be in St. Louis.
Do you have a favorite celebrity chef that has inspired you?
I follow creations of Alan Ducasse, David Burk and German Chef Alfons Schubeck, the diversity of their cooking styles from Classic French to Modern American to my heritage, home style cooking is what keeps me inspired.
What is your favorite childhood food memory/dish?
What I remember most was the “Topfen Strudel” my Grandmother used to make when we visit her. Topfen Strudel is bakers cheese with raisins folded in thick crepes (Pfannekuchen) and baked in the oven.
If you could have only one item from your hotel’s menus, what would it be and why?
As we are in the process of refreshing our seasonal menu in the Chase Club, I really look forward to our Smoked Chicken Drumettes with Alabama White Sauce or our Rigatoni with Butternut Squash. Since my arrival to St. Louis I have been introduced to some of the local farmers, cheese makers and meat purveyors, building a relationship, and creating a story with the people who produce what we source is always my goal when creating menus for my restaurant. Stay tuned for the Preston menu.
What do you like most about your city’s food and beverage scene? Other than your own outlet/s what spots do you recommend?
St. Louis has a variety of culinary pockets, from Irish to Mediterranean, Asian to Indian with a strong European and Eastern European influence, with some unique Chef driven eclectic restaurants. I am still in discovery mode and find new places every week. I believe there is a great pool of talented chefs in St. Louis what are eager to leave their mark on the culinary scene. Including me. So, no recommendations at this point.
What is your dream dining destination?
Through out my career I had the opportunity to eat at some unique interesting place like a seafood stall in Puerto Chacabuco, Chile or having a burger in Ushuaia, to a Shepherd’s Pie in the Falkland Islands, Alaskan salmon bake and Hawaiian Luau, caviar tasting in St. Petersburg, Russia, to dining at Charles Trotter in Chicago with friends. To top all this, I would love to experience the food halls of Tokyo or Bangkok, and the markets of Bombay, all on my culinary bucket list.