Chef Carole Peck of Good News Café - Biography

Oakland , CA

November 2010

Connections between food, family, and fun go back to Carole Peck's childhood. Born into a family with Ukrainian roots, Peck has vivid taste memories of many ethnic foods. Eating out was a special treat she looked forward to. She relished tastes that many childhood friends didn't share. (Her lunchboxes carried sandwiches filled with things like liverwurst or blood and tongue sausage. "I wondered why nobody wanted to trade," she chuckles.) While in high school, she got a job as a short-order cook in a Howard Johnson's restaurant and knew right away that she wanted to make cooking her career. She enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America, learned the rules of French cooking, and became a standout garde manger. In fact, Peck won a coveted fellowship to apprentice with legendary Chef Fernand Granger of Le Pavillon restaurant. (She was also a trailblazer in her gender: She was one of only 28 women to 1,000 men at the Culinary Institute in her class.)

Peck then began her ascent to the top ranks of the culinary major leagues. She had to win the confidence of older chefs, mostly French and German, who weren't used to hiring women. One of them "wanted me to wear a little pantry dress" instead of a chef's uniform, she recalls. "He couldn't believe I wouldn't spoil the sauce." But her strong talents won out, and at the age of 24, she got her first executive chef job at the Hilton Head Sea Pines Plantation resort.

After working as the executive chef at many other restaurants and resorts including the resort on Fisher Island in Miami and the two-star Cafe Greco in New York, Peck moved to Connecticut to go back to the land and be close to the purveyors. She opened Carole Peck's Restaurant in New Milford, Connecticut; in 1997 she expanded her operation with Good News Café in Woodbury, Connecticut. She also published her first cookbook, The Buffet Book. Her restaurants received a multitude of accolades and positive notices from Zagat's Guide, The New York Times, Gourmet, Connecticut Magazine, Bon Appetit, House Beautiful, and Travel & Leisure. In 2000, the National Restaurant Association named Good News Café the "Restaurant of the Year"; in 2003, Connecticut Magazine readers chose Good News Café for "Best American" and "Best Desserts" in Connecticut. Peck has also made appearances on the Food Network, Martha Stewart Living Television and PBS.

Peck continues to manage the restaurant, catering company, and work on a forthcoming cookbook, from her husband Bernard Jarrier-Cabernet’s native France. In 2001, along with Connecticut-based typesetter Dennis Pistone, Peck created Ici La Press, which specializes in publishing English-language editions of some of the finest cookbooks in Europe.