Richard Petty, Author
About the Author
As a teenager growing up in the Midwest, I thought that I’d like to cook for a living, so I took culinary classes at Detroit’s Central High School. I enjoyed cooking for family and friends. In those days, we didn’t have a Food Channel; the best we could watch was Julia Child and a local chef who called himself DuClas DuClas.
I’m from a family of cooks: my mother and her aunts were all great cooks. We would gather at Aunt Thelma’s in the summertime, and there would be a whole lot of cooking and fussing going on. Aunt Thelma would be washing greens, Aunt Shane would be cleaning chit’lins, and my mom would bake. And who could forget Uncle Skizzie’s famous homemade peach ice cream? And I could never forget my travels to the Carolina’s as young man while serving in the Navy. I still can taste the low country cooking of the region.
My culinary journey began in Atlanta, where I lived for a while, taking care of my ill father. I discovered a restaurant named Veni Vidi Vici. I was in awe over the fresh pasta from a pasta kitchen in the lower level of the building; the chef let me take a quick look inside, and that was it for me. My father encouraged me to return to California to attend culinary school in San Francisco, so I packed up my son, and we returned to Los Angeles. I took a job at a small Italian restaurant in Burbank while I prepared for school. Once I was accepted, then it was off to San Francisco to attend the California Culinary Academy.
The Bay Area was a fantastic place to study the arts, with the wine country as a backdrop. It was a mind-blowing experience. But it wasn’t until I met Patrick Clark, Stephen Simmons, and Bradley Ogden that my career really took off. In my third term, I began working for Bradley Ogden, as an extern at his One Market Restaurant. I started out in the bakery; this was by choice, since I wanted to develop some baking skills.
After two years in San Francisco, I returned to Los Angeles and immediately went to work as a line cook at Joachim Splichal’s Pinot Bistro with the Patina Group. The experience was brief, but the gamble paid off, since I landed my first executive chef position at the Beverly Hills Inn adjacent to the famed talent agency Creative Artist Management and in the shadows of the posh Peninsula Hotel.
I later went to work for Wolfgang Puck. I learned a lot with Puck, especially on the business side. I worked as a sous chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Cafe. I have fond memories of working with Wolf and his team. He and I damaged his son’s birthday cake one Sunday. The cake slid while we were removing it from Wolf’s car—boy, did we get in trouble for that. We did our best to repair the cake, but Barbara, Wolf’s wife at the time, still wasn't too happy. I made a few stops here and there, including the five-star/five-diamond Diaghilev Restaurant in West Hollywood, where I started out as a contract worker and quickly mastered every station.
My big break came when I became executive chef at Keyshaun Johnson’s Reign Restaurant in Beverly Hills. I must have cooked for every celebrity in town. The list is too long to mention, but I remember the late Johnnie Cochran, who was the first to try my shrimp hush puppies on skewers at a party for his father.
I have put together my most memorable recipes over my long career. I hope you come to enjoy the cooking of the dishes and share with your family and friends. Good cooking!