Peter was nominated for The Faces of Athens by Cooper Hudson. Cooper said: I’m a huge Peter Dale fan personally and professionally. I know that he’s so talented, creative and smart but I’m also lucky enough to call him a friend so I also know that he’s kind, funny and adventurous.
Meet Peter Dale! Peter was born and raised in Athens. He graduated from Cedar Shoals High School in 1995 and from the University of Georgia with a degree in Public Relations. Peter is the award winning chef and owner of several of Athens’ most beloved establishments, including The National restaurant downtown, Seabear Oyster Bar in The Bottleworks, Condor Chocolates in Five Points and Maepole in Boulevard. Peter lives in the Boulevard neighborhood of Athens, with his roommate Melissa Roberts, 2 dogs and 2 cats.
What inspired you or led you to your current career?
It was a round about way to get there, and I think it was more finding out things I didn’t like. I kept exploring different things that I thought I liked and was interested in, checked them off the list for various reasons. I worked in politics in Washington. It was a great experience after college, but, I realized that was not what I wanted to do career wise. Then, I moved back to Athens, and I thought I wanted to be in higher education administration. My job was half recruiting and half fundraising and development. I loved the recruiting part, and I loved working with people, but, I hated the cold call fundraising aspect. It wasn’t until after college, that I realized I had this creative energy that wasn’t really going anywhere. I wanted a way to work so I didn’t have to be at a desk at 8:00 A.M., something I could do with my hands that was creative. Simultaneously, in another tract of my brain, when I lived in D.C. I started cooking, there were all these great markets and in 1999 in Athens there was not a lot going on food wise. There wasn’t even Earth Fare or farmer’s markets. So, when I got to D.C., there was all this amazing food, and I loved to eat. So, I started cooking and that just opened up this whole world. One day, I was like maybe I should try and pursue this. I like food. I like cooking. My dad was a professor and had lots of international grad students and we were always hosting people. I love to learn about cultures and new cuisines. So one day, it just popped in my head that maybe I should try cooking and restaurants. Maybe that is where all of these things that I have learned up until this point can kind of come together. 5 & 10 had just been open for about a year and I had a friend working there and we ate there. I realized that they were doing something really different than what I had seen before. The next day I came in in the middle of the afternoon and talked to Hugh [Acheson]. I said I have never worked in a restaurant, you don’t know me, but can I hang out here? I did that for a couple of months, and a real job came open so I took it. From there I’ve grown one step at a time. Started by opening the National; opened Seabear in 2014, then Condor with my brother (which is really his baby) and last year Maepole.
When you are not eating at one of your restaurants, what are your favorite restaurants in Athens?
We go to Donna Chang’s a good bit. It is delicious, it is a great environment, great cocktails. Anything by Mimi at home.made (we were line cooks together at 5&10, I just love her). I live practically next door to Heirloom and go there often, especially for brunch. My parents live half the year in Ecuador, so when they are here we will often go there for family reunions. I also really like Taste of India.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I am going to Morocco in April and that has been really high on my list. I really want to go to Japan. I am really interested in seeing the precision and organization in everything that they do, the cities themselves and the food. I would want to be accompanied by someone who knows where to go and what to do because I am intimidated by it, but I am fascinated by it. That is pretty high on my list.
If you have a favorite movie, what is your favorite movie? Or, alternately what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
The first movie I remember seeing in a theatre was with my grandmother at The Classic Triple that was downtown we saw Benji. I also remember seeing E.T. with my mom and my grandmother at Beechwood. My favorite movie, for some reason, when I was in high school, I went to see Lawrence of Arabia at The Tate Center. For some reason, I was always really drawn to Lawrence of Arabia–I have had an interest in the Middle East and North Africa and that sort of translated into food as well. I am not sure why, but seeing that movie resonated with me.
What advice do you give people starting out in your industry?
I tell them there are a lot of easier ways to make more money and be ready to have a crazy lifestyle, especially in the beginning. You can forget about weekends and nights. Also, you have to love working with people, whether you are in the kitchen or the front of house, because it is all about people. I think that is good advice for any career.
If you could see any band, play or show at any venue, past or present, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would love to see Fleetwood Mac in their prime. I would love to see an iconic band like Fleetwood Mac in a small venue like The Georgia Theatre and it is not sold out, maybe it is half full so there is energy but it is not packed. That would pretty ideal.
Choosing anyone, alive or dead, to have lunch with who would it be and where?
Probably my great-grandfather who I never knew, but he was born on this little island in Greece. They were greek, but it was really close to Turkey. The Turks were going to invade for some reason and kill everyone, and there was a British ship in the harbor on this little island, called Tylos. They were able to get on this English merchant ship and the ship was going to Alexandria, Egypt. So, they were dropped off in Alexandria, Egypt and that is where he grew up. He learned eight languages and was sort of this street kid. Apparently, when he was old enough, there had been some older relatives who moved to America, he worked his way through Europe. One story, is that he was a painter on the Eiffel Tower, may be an embellishment, but makes a good story. Then, eventually Ellis Island and he lived in Brooklyn. His siblings got involved in Vaudeville, some of the siblings ended up in L.A. and went to New York. It is just a crazy story, and we do not have good documentation of all of that. I would love to sit down and pick his brain, maybe back to Alexandria to whatever neighborhood he grew up in and eat somewhere there.
What is your favorite thing to do in or around Athens when you are not working?
I am trying to be more fit. So, I go to Ramsey. I have always loved swimming so I have rediscovered that and I like it because that is the only time where there is no noise. You are kind of all alone, under the water and it is really nice to unplug for a little while. It is a pretty fantastic pool.
What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
Actually, ever since I was a little kid I have loved airplanes. My dad did a lot of consulting work so he traveled a lot and he would bring me back model airplanes and time tables. So, even now on my Instagram there is where you can suggest things and half of them are food and the other are airplane Instagram accounts. I don’t know if many people know that, but that is why our logo is an airplane.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Not to take anything away from my dad, but my mom was a stay-at-home mom and also she moved here from Ecuador and left her career and family behind. I feel like she made so many sacrifices for us. I am so grateful. I can’t believe she did all of that, it is amazing. So, I definitely think about my mom. I think about family gatherings. We have close family friends, the parents are from Colombia and my mom is from Ecuador and in the 1970s no one really spoke Spanish here so they became close friends. We celebrate our holidays with them, especially Thanksgiving is a really big thing. There have been times when there have been forty or fifty people at our house. And support. My parents made this really supportive environment where we could explore whatever we wanted to explore. Support comes in lots of forms, but we got very lucky with parents. They gave us a lot of support.