2016 San Francisco Rising Star Chefs Rupert and Carrie Blease of Lord Stanley

2016 San Francisco Rising Star Chefs Rupert and Carrie Blease of Lord Stanley
May 2016

When Rupert Blease was 10, his family decamped England for France—a fortuitous relocation for the young Brit. While on break from “normal school” he picked up a summer gig washing pots and cooking at a local hotel, and so began his culinary journey. Without quite knowing what he was getting into, Blease took his first formative postion at Michelin-starred Nicolas Le Bec in Lyon. He was impressed by the level of service and professionalism. That experience propelled him to a second Michelin establishment, Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons, which was yet another fateful move for Blease. There he met his kindred spirit and future wife, Carrie Puffer. 

Puffer grew up an ocean and a continent away in Los Angeles, where she picked up catering gigs throughout high school and went on to study at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco—falling in love with the city. After externing at Le Manoir, Puffer was hired and stayed on for a year. While Chef Raymond Blanc was a great influence on Puffer, Blease made an even greater impression. The two married in 2005. 

In New York, Rupert Blease worked at Per Se and Carrie Blease at Blue Hill. In 2011, they moved to San Francisco, where she cooked at Commonwealth and he at Central Kitchen. In 2015, the couple opened Lord Stanley, earning a Michelin star for their elegant, seemingly simple food that’s packed with technique and the influences they’ve accumulated during more than a decade of traveling and cooking together.           

Interview with San Francisco Rising Stars Carrie and Rupert Blease of Lord Stanley

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start? 
Rupert Blease:
From ages 10 to 20 I grew up in France and worked as a dishwasher while studying at school. One summer, I had an internship in a French hotel. Later, I took a job at Nicolet le Bec near Leon. I didn't know what I was getting myself into; it was a very professional kitchen. 
Carrie Blease: Throughout high school, I did a lot of random catering work. After I moved to San Francisco, I went to culinary school at the California Culinary Academy. I got a three month externship in England at La Manoir, where I met Rupert. I was hired on and stayed another year. We lived in England and moved around quite a lot, but we always saw ourselves coming back here [to San Francisco]. It's a great food city. It has the feel of a big city but is actually quite small. 

SK: Who are your mentors? 
Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones, the longtime head chef at La Manoir. He was there for, like, twenty years, maybe more. 
CB: It [La Manoir] was a great place for training. I'm so happy I ended up there. The standards were very high, zero compromise. It has a wonderful apprentice program. When I started there, at 22, there were 15 year old kids. [Jones] spent a lot of time on each person in the program. Rupert did one on one training, making black pudding. Blanc has reams of passion for food. He's an amazing person; he'll taste the smallest things and get so excited. He'd knows everything about [the dish] and how to prepare it. 

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community? 
We moved back [to San Francisco] in December of 2010. It's such a small community, very tight knit. There's no sense of competition, so it's nice to feel apart of it.

SK: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant? 
Staffing is really hard. We opened with these guys we knew, that we had worked with before. We have five people now, but when we first opened, it was just four. It's intense. We get a lot of stage interns who come from all different states: one week we had a guy from Denver, he was staging around San Francisco. It's nice having stages around, a lot of people ask to stage in pastry here, which surpirsed us. 

SK: What most inspires your food?
We try to practice restraint, keeping food refined and treating just a few ingredients well. But it's hard because there are just so many amazing ingredients. We're really inspired by Scandinavian and Japanese cooking, where everything on the plate is there for a reason. We try to make the techniques stand out instead of the array of ingredients.

SK: What's the five year plan?
We really want a successful and happy staff. We support the staff as much as possible. We want to ensure that they acquire ownership, not through owning shares but through a sense of pride and investment in their work. Pride and concern for what they are doing is fundamental because, if they don't care, no one else will either. How they carry themselves is reflected in their work. 
CB: It has been a huge learning curve. We are so involved in everything and we learn through building. The way we had to go about opening, struggling through permits and worrying about finances, drove home the effort involved. We don't take anything for granted. We keep the kitchen super tight in terms of waste and keep ingredients as fresh as possible. We don't hold onto produce too long.
RB: I want to master a clean, fresh, honest way of treating food: simple, with attention to detail. My goal is to do that right.