Carl Schroeder’s decision to become a chef wasn’t made inside a kitchen, but rather in the middle of a Barnes & Noble.
Schroeder ’91 was a manager at a sporting goods store when he began to question if he was on the right path. Looking for inspiration in a career book, it hit him that he wanted to cook professionally. A week later, he was washing dishes and doing prep work at a restaurant.
“I did that for almost two years to get enough experience to get into the Culinary Institute of America,” Schroeder says. “I was dead set on some day opening my own restaurant. I never saw my final stop as working for someone else.”
Today, Schroeder is the executive chef and proprietor of Market Restaurant + Bar in Del Mar, Calif., owner of Banker’s Hill Bar and Restaurant in San Diego, and a three-time James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for Best Chef Pacific. It was a surprise to many that he became a chef—while Schroeder enjoyed fishing as a kid and would prepare his catch, he attended the University of Redlands to study business administration. “I had the best time of my life,” he says, playing football, running track, and joining the Pi Chi fraternity, but was “not a cook, whatsoever.” Schroeder was certain of one thing, though: “I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur of some kind.”
When he arrived at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Schroeder found his undergraduate degree gave him an advantage over his peers who did not attend college. “Having that background also gave me a lot of confidence when it came time to do my own thing,” he says. “There are a lot of unknowns in the restaurant business, but having my degree, I wasn’t starting from zero.”
Schroeder went on to work at a number of high-profile restaurants, including Michael Mina’s Aqua in San Francisco and Bradley Ogden’s Lark Creek Inn in Marin County. The San Diego native returned to his hometown in 2002 to help Ogden open Arterra Restaurant, and soon Schroeder decided it was time to strike out on his own. In 2006, Market Restaurant + Bar opened its doors, and Schroeder has been busy ever since.
“It’s a lot of hard work, every day,” he says. “I never get complacent. There’s so much competition, and I’m constantly thinking that we have to get better.” Profit margins are slim in restaurants, and Schroeder has instilled in his staff that it doesn’t matter how last night went, every day starts fresh.
Market Restaurant’s menu changes daily, with dishes made from locally grown, hand-picked ingredients. “That’s what keeps it exciting—the seasonality, the new products,” Schroeder says. I definitely have a style, but I don’t have a repertoire and can take anything and do anything with it.”
As fast-paced as restaurant life is, Schroeder was able to carve out time during early mornings and late nights to write the Market Restaurant + Bar Cookbook. It includes “solid” recipes that Schroeder hopes will inspire cooks at home to make seasonal specialties. He likely has enough fodder for another book on the countless celebrities and politicians he has cooked for, including President Bill Clinton, actor Henry Winkler (“he’s the nicest guy”), skateboarding legend Tony Hawk (one of his restaurant’s investors) and football star Jerry Rice, who went into the kitchen and took selfies with the crew. “They talked about that for six months,” Schroeder says.
When he’s not planning menus, making restaurant upgrades or meeting diners who are also Redlands alumni—Schroeder says this happens at least once a month—the chef is with his family: wife, Brandi, and kids, Jake, 18, Eric, 14, and Ava, 4. He doesn’t take what he has for granted and won’t stop striving to give his guests the best dining experience he can offer.
“I’m just a guy with a dream who was fortunate to learn skills at the University of Redlands and from a lot of good chefs along the way,” he says. “It has been a slow, steady building of knowledge, which really allows you to succeed in the long run.”
—Catherine Garcia ’06
Roasted Lamb Loin Chops and Minted Apricot Preserves
This is a seasonal twist on lamb with apple-mint jelly. Although apple-mint jelly is viewed by most as outdated and old school, there’s still something to be said for the pairing of sweet with the flavor of grilled lamb. Here I’ve used first harvest apricots to make preserves as an ode to an old classic.
Suggested wine pairing: Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
For the lamb loin and marinade
½ cup light olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon rosemary
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted ground fennel
1 tablespoon toasted ground coriander
Salt and pepper, to taste
18 lamb loin chops (trimmed of all silver skin and excess fat)
Combine the first seven ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.
Add lamb chops to a large mixing bowl. Cover with marinade and plastic wrap and marinate in refrigerator for 4-6 hours.
Remove lamb from refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.
Heat an outdoor grill to high heat.
Remove lamb chops from marinade and season with salt and pepper on each side.
Grill lamb chops for 3-4 minutes per side (or to desired doneness).
For the balsamic-lamb jus
1 pound lamb bones
5 tablespoons light olive oil, more for coating lamb bones
1 cup chopped Spanish onions
½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup tomato paste
1 (750-mililiter) bottle red wine
1 gallon brown veal stock
1 herb sachet with 1 sprig rosemary added
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Rinse bones well under cold running water, pat dry, and coat with oil. Place bones on a large baking sheet, and cook for 1 hour, turning occasionally, until evenly browned and caramelized.
Heat remaining 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepot over high heat. Add onions, carrots and celery, and cook until slightly brown.
Add tomato paste and cook until slightly caramelized, 4-5 minutes.
Add red wine and simmer over medium heat until liquid reduces by half its volume.
Add lamb bones, brown veal stock, and herb sachet. Simmer over medium-low heat until liquid is a sauce consistency, 1-2 hours.
Add vinegar and continue to reduce to a sauce consistency.
Chef’s Tip: You will know the balsamic-lamb jus is ready when it reaches a thick consistency with good body.
For the minted apricot preserves
4 cups fresh apricots, diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons chopped mint
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot, and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Once mixture reaches a full boil, continue to boil for 15 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Stir frequently to prevent preserves from sticking to the sides of the pot. Remove from heat and reserve at room temperature.
Place 3 lamb chops onto each plate. Drizzle with balsamic-lamb jus. Add apricot preserves to each chop. Just before serving, add the chopped mint to the preserves.
Recommended with this dish (recipes are available in the book): aged white cheddar potatoes, whipped fennel and roasted gai lan.