The Hotel del Coronado’s new executive chef Stefan Peroutka has set out to make the Del a food destination, not only for conventioneers and vacationers, but for locals as well.
“We want people to say it is the Del and it is worth it, not only for the property, but also for the food,” he said.
Over the holidays, locals got a chance to sample Peroutka’s culinary vision. To say they were impressed might well be an understatement. “So many of our guests were raving about how good the food was,” said Kelly Scalise, who oversees the Coronado Chamber of Commerce’s membership and events, and is also the wife of a chef.
There was a chicken and beef taco bar with a wide variety of toppings, ten different appetizer trays and a cheese display. “[It] was so beautiful that at times people were gathered around just taking pictures,” Scalise added.
Diners at the Windsor Cottage and Member’s Christmas party were equally smitten by Peroutka’s talent. There the food was more upscale, and it was table service in the Crown Room instead of a buffet, but it was every bit as memorable.
“It was the best filet mignon I’ve ever had,” said Jennie Portelli. “Dinner was served quickly and at the right temperature, which was pretty amazing considering how big the crowd was.” Portelli and her former husband owned L’Oignon, so she knows how difficult it is to get hot food from the kitchen to the table.
Peroutka grew up in a mountain village near Salzburg, Austria, where his great passion was skiing. “If you didn’t ski there wasn’t much else to do,” he said. When not on the slopes or in school, he spent time helping his mother out in the kitchen. “Everything was fresh and made from scratch,” he said. In time he began to think about making it a career.
At 13 he began to spend his summers working in five-star restaurants in and around Salzburg. Two years later he enrolled in culinary school in Obortrum and began apprenticeship with Chef Volker Klein. “He was amazing,” Peroutka said. Klein had worked on cruise ships and told Peroutka of his many adventures and what a career in the kitchen had to offer. “He opened my eyes to what was possible as a chef,” Peroutka said.
After his apprenticeship, he worked in high-end, Michelin Guide-style restaurants, staying for at least one year to gain as much experience as he could. “Even if it wasn’t an ideal place I always looked for ways to learn something,” he said.
In 2000 he received an offer to come to the U.S as a chef de partie at the five star Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant at Chateau du Sureau. It was then that he met his wife Susan in nearby Oakhurst. The couple moved to Seattle and back to Europe, spending three and a half years in Portugal. All the while Peroutka was honing his skills, expanding and diversifying his repertoire. “It’s such an ever evolving trade. You can never sit still” Peroutka said. “That’s what’s fun about it.”
An offer from the Charlie Palmer group brought him to Las Vegas. It was there he made his mark. First as an executive sous chef at the Mandalay Bay’s Aureole and as the executive banquet chef at the Venetian and Palazzo Resort. There, along with Chef Scott Donley, Peroutka elevated banquet fare from the humdrum to the extraordinary.
“We applied the philosophy of restaurant cooking to banquets by using the best, freshest ingredients, then came up with some creative ways to do this for 5,000 guests,” he said.
The change was a critical and financial success. The Venetian reaped numerous accolades and awards and revenues rose from $75 million to $120 million. “It was a fun experience,” Peroutka said. After seven years, innovation and creativity gave way to routine. Things were running smoothly and Peroutka was ready for a new challenge.
That’s when Coronado’s stately, historic resort offered him a chance to apply and expand on what he had learned in Vegas. Peroutka joined the Del in August 2017. As executive chef, Peroutka oversees a number of food and beverage venues, including 1500 Ocean, Babcock & Story Bar, and ENO Pizzeria & Wine Bar, plus the Sun Deck Bar & Grill. While banquets are 50% of the Del’s business and a top priority for Peroutka, he wants to raise the standards in all the food venues.
“I want to make each a unique experience,” Peroutka said. “I don’t want it to feel like everything came out of the same kitchen.”