Q&A: Marmalade’s award-winning chef, Peter Schintler
Acclaimed chef and entrepreneur, Peter Schintler—owner of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s award-winning gourmet restaurant, Marmalade—talks family, culinary inspiration and his passion for socially conscious cooking.
Q. You have worked at so many prestigious restaurants worldwide and received myriad accolades, what has been the highlight of your career to date?
There have been many highlights in our 16 years of operation. I would have to say the most rewarding aspect of my career is watching members of my team become successful entrepreneurs and open their own businesses. We have had several staff move on to attain Michelin stars in their own kitchens, while others have opened small restaurants and food trucks. It’s a pretty cool feeling knowing you can help others achieve their life goals.
Q. Why did you choose Puerto Rico as the location for your first restaurant?
I figured if you have to suffer through a recession and possibly a depression you might as well do it in 90 degrees with nice people, right? After several years in Europe and Asia it seemed like a great life adventure in a new part of the world we had not yet explored.
Q. Who (or what) has had the most influence on your culinary career?
I’ve been fortunate to work with many brilliant and talented chefs throughout my 30-year career, but I must say my amazing wife has influenced my cooking style the most. She has a great command of nutrition and alkalinity that aligns with the social consciousness needed to move the planet forward in the 21st century. I have come to enjoy and really challenge myself with vegan and vegetarian cooking through these basic principles, without limiting my imagination.
Q. How has Hurricane Maria and the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business approach and philosophy in the kitchen?
This was a difficult period for everyone. What an incredibly humbling experience we were all put through and in some ways are still trying to overcome. Tragedy changes your perspective on everything. To process the stress of the circumstances and persevere, you need to listen and be patient. Flexibility is a trait that we lean on across all aspects of the business. Having the ability to welcome change every day allows us to overcome some of the challenges that we encounter daily.
Q. How would you define your cooking style at Marmalade?
Wine-friendly food driven by ingredients that are in harmony with the seasons and earth. We try to create dishes and compositions that truly have a soul and a purpose.
Q. What dish should everyone try at Marmalade?
Our thumbprint is a soup course—tiny white bean soup with crispy pancetta ham and fresh truffles. It reads with simplicity and doesn’t always jump off the menu like other more complex creations, but it tastes like heaven in a bowl. Silken velvety white beans garnished with the saltiness of smoke pancetta dust and veiled in a sheath of musky truffle.
Q. What are your favorite places to eat in San Juan?
I’m a big fan of Juan Cuevas at 1919. He has an elegance and refinement to his palette and cooking that I believe is unmatched in Puerto Rico. When I send guests to his restaurant for the first time, I try to explain that if we were both musical instruments, I would be a saxophone and Juan would be a violin. There’s a contemporary classicism that is timeless in his cooking—you rarely see that anymore. I also love what Francis and Emilia are doing at Vianda. They are a brilliant young couple with a lovely product and a sustainable approach to the future of dining in Puerto Rico.
Q. How do you like to spend time when you are not in the kitchen?
Siena, Siena, Siena, my amazing 14-year-old daughter. She is the boss and I love it. I would rather be remembered as a great father and husband than a great chef.