Pierre Pelech eyes crinkle up in merriment when telling a story, and his pleasure in talking to guests is genuine, often touching them on the arm or taking their hand.
“It’s going to take a little longer tonight,” he recently jokes with guests at one table. “The microwave is broken!”
Since last October, loyal clients have found their way to his new Chez Pierre location next to the Chop House on Highway 111 and Portola, a “much bigger and better location,” says Pelech.
“I can’t wait to come to work each day!” he says. “I was always in the kitchen cooking as a kid; I knew exactly what I wanted to be.”
From France’s Alsace region, Pelech’s parents were highly educated teachers, who told him they wanted him to be apprenticed “at the very best place,.” So at a tender young age, he began in Monte Carlo under a leading chef.
“Once it was my job to feed the corn meal to the escargot at night,” recalls Pelech. “I had forgotten to put the cover back correctly. The next morning, I’ll never forget my chef calling me: Pierre! Come Here! The escargot had escaped and were all over the walls!”
Growing his own shallots and herbs — even Vietnamese rice paddy herbs grown in a flat and specialty garlic from China — Pierre focuses on fresh, high quality food. During season he visits the Certified Farmers Markets, perusing the tomatoes, zucchini, lettuces, cauliflower — his daily specials inspired by the garden, fresh fish or choice meat.
His “old school” cooking methods learned as a young apprentice means guests experience an authentic, labor-intensive, classic French meal at Chez Pierre. Pelech braises, sautés, and roasts; bakes his homemade bread in a wood-fired bread oven he designed himself, and grinds and seasons meats for sausages and pates (pictured above) he makes in-house.
Summer Fare, Shorter Hours
Open with shorter hours during the summer, Chez Pierre’s lighter menu features some of his classics – hanger steak, tomato carpaccio with shallots and vinaigrette, frog legs Provençale, calf’s liver sauté with onions, crispy sweetbreads, and steak tartare.
Daily specials include a fresh fish of the day – such as line caught Pacific salmon, Oregon sand dabs, orange roughy beurre blanc, and Maryland soft shell crabs.
Freshly ground sirloin tartare blended with spices and capers come mounded in a wide brimmed bowl with slivers of toast points, cornichons and chopped tomato with a cone of fresh pomme frites.
Lightly floured, sautéed sand dabs with creamy caper lemon sauce (pictured at right) arrive with potato au gratin, haricots vert, and a grilled half tomato. Ask Pelech for tastes of his house-made pate or pork and beef sausages, an off-menu specialty that he makes only during the summer.
A rich risotto with wild mushrooms is on Pelech’s new summertime three-course $32 prix fixe menu. Start with soup, salad, celery remoulade, gnocchi Nicoise, or a glass of house wine, and then decide upon breaded veal cutlet Milanese, orange roughy beurre blanc, hanger steak, or chicken and mushroom crepes.
Apple tarte tatin with vanilla bean ice cream and fresh whipped cream is one of several house-made desserts.
Chez Pierre is closed for the rest of the summer and will reopen the first week of September.
Chez Pierre, 74040 Highway 111, Palm Desert, (760) 346-1818