Interview with Peter Hertzmann
Technological University Dublin
Peter Hertzmann was born in San Francisco and is a self-confessed obsessive. His interest in cooking goes back to the boy scouts at the age of eleven but he seriously started to cook after he graduated from college focussing nearly exclusively on Chinese food. He amassed the largest library of Chinese cookbooks in the English language which is now housed at UC Davis. He worked his way through school as a mechanical engineer getting a degree in photographic sciences and instrumentation (optics and statistics). After graduation he was involved with the mechanical optical design for the interior lighting of the space shuttle. Eventually he got into lasers working for Spectra Physics, the first gas laser company in the mid -70s. Then he got into surgical lasers and in 1982 was one of the three founders of a company called Laserscope which was a surgical laser company. He quickly morphed from being an engineer to developing new procedures, most famously the laparoscopic cholecystectomy which is taking out the gall bladder through the navel. He worked for a while as a consultant, then from 1994-1998, he was Head of the Clinical/Marketing side of a company that was doing an implant for central neural hearing loss. In 1998 he quit that, retired and decided to do what he wanted to do.
Food wise, essentially from 1974 until 1994 all he cooked was Chinese food. When his son left home he cooked some Japanese food but in 1994 he went to France for the first time and had an epiphany. In 1997 he to spend a week in Sorges, at the Auberge de la Truffe, a restaurant specialising in truffles and foie gras. He later staged under a number of leading French chefs including Louis Outhier. Peter is interested particularly in butchery and knife skills, and in 2007 published ‘Knife Skills Illustrated: A User’s Manual’. Since 1999, his ramblings, thoughts, comments and observations have been available on his blog ‘A la Carte’ (http://www.hertzmann.com/index/index.php). He has been a regular attendee at the Oxford Symposium since 2008 and has modernised the typesetting of the proceedings.
oral history, culinary history, oxford symposium