Interview with Chef Martin Brock of Gary Danko – San Francisco, CA

June 2010

Antoinette Bruno: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Martin Brock: Always, since I first began, I liked cooking. When I finished school, I did an apprenticeship four days per week with one day per week at school. After doing that I knew it was the right fit for me. I grew up on a farm  and I was always introduced to fresh produce. We butchered our own meat. So I was introduced to nice products.

AB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
MB: Café Gray and Grayz. In Germany, Villa Hammerschmiede; in Switzerland Haus Paradies Hotel; Humperdinck in Frankfurt.

AB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?
MB: Once again, it’s a little bit different in Germany. You have to do an apprenticeship. Here, if you are smart, you pick it up on your own. Culinary school provides good fundamentals. It's a lot of money to go to school here in the USA.

AB: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
MB: Gray Kunz. I learned from him the blending of flavors. He uses a lot of acid in his dishes to bring out the flavors. Eckhart Witzigmann created fine dining in Germany. He inspired me with his perfectionism, his style of cuisine, and his vision. There was a time before him and after him. Every big chef in Germany has worked for him.

AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry?
MB: I saw, in New York, that people don't want to dress up anymore. They want a laid-back experience and want to go to a restaurant where they can be themselves with great food.

AB: What’s your philosophy on food and dining?
MB: You should appreciate the product you work with. It's something special. When I became a chef, my goal was to entertain people. You support your diner to have a good time.

AB: What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do in your career?
MB: I think being patient and waiting for the right opportunity.

AB: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
MB: Not too much I've only been out here [in San Francisco] for a few months. I've met a few people, the chef at Michael Mina, the chef at flour + water who was a former cook here.

AB:If you had one thing that you could do again or do over what would it be?
MB: I would focus a little more on pastry. I have a little pastry experience, but wish I had more. I'm at a point in my career where it’s a little too late. It’s my weakest point.

AB: What has been your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
MB: My greatest accomplishment is that I came to another country that doesn’t speak my mother language and had to basically start again. I'm proud of where I am today. From the moment I came to the States and what I accomplished in the past couple of years—I'm happy with that.

AB: What’s next for you? Where will we find you in five years?
MB: In five years I'd like to have ideally my own place. If it will be on the East Coast or West Coast, I don't know yet. I'd like to have a small place with great food but not as high-end as this restaurant. Smaller and more rustic food.