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Crave chef spotlight: Mark Peel

Mark Peel owns a broth-based seafood eatery in downtown LA. (Courtesy photo)

Consider the onion.

When you’re cooking for friends, need a side dish and are bored with baked potatoes, find some Walla Walla sweets or yellow onions. Cut off the ends, but don’t peel them. Cut a cross into the tops, scoring them about halfway down the bulb. Coat them with olive oil. Sprinkle on a bit of salt. Place them on a baking sheet and roast them at 350 or 400 degrees. Watch them begin to open up, caramelize and char a bit on top.

“It’s one of my favorite things,” said Mark Peel, who owns and runs a broth-based seafood restaurant in Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. “They come out so sweet and simple. It’s so simple it’s almost not a recipe. But it’s delicious, especially with a little oregano vinaigrette.”

Peel, who co-founded La Brea Bakery, is in the process of flipping his fast-casual Bombo eatery in downtown LA into a place called Prawn, which is focused on traditional seafood dishes such as lobster rolls and fish-and-chips. A second location is planned for Pasadena.

He’s appeared on culinary shows such as “Kitchen Nightmares,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Top Chef,” “Top Chef: Masters” and “Top Chef: Just Desserts.” And this weekend, he’s slated to cook at the first Crave festival with his wife, Daphne Brogdon, who hosted the Food Network show “Daphne Dishes.”

He’s leaning toward preparing something with shrimp, perhaps a shrimp butter boil that marries the flavors of Louisiana and southern India. Peel loves curry. And he loves shrimp.

Shrimp are among his go-to ingredients. They can be prepared quickly, with a dry rub, then stir-fried with vegetables and served with rice or potatoes – or his simple specialty of roasted onions.

Another staple: “Chicken is always a good thing at home. It’s easy to cook in so many incarnations.” Peel prefers thigh meat “not just because it’s less expensive but because I think it has much better texture. It’s juicier and flavorful.

“I take bone-in chicken thighs with the skin on and marinate them with soy, a little bit of chili paste, a little Vietnamese fish sauce and garlic. I let them marinate for a few hours, sear them off and then braise them with a little bit of the marinade and some chicken broth, covered, in a pan. I make big pans of that.”

Mark your calendar: Mark Peel presents his culinary stage demo from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. Friday.