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Adrian Hoffman
Adrian Hoffman is a busy man. As Group Chef for the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, he oversees culinary excellence at 10 separate restaurants, including The Lark Creek Inn (Larkspur, Calif.); One Market Restaurant (San Francisco); Lark Creek Walnut Creek (Walnut Creek, Calif.); Lark Creek Steak (San Francisco); Yankee Pier (Larkspur, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; and San Francisco); Parcel 104 (Santa Clara, Calif.); Arterra (San Diego); and Bradley Ogden (Las Vegas). TravelsinTaste.com recently spoke with Chef Hoffman to discuss his career, his cooking style and the importance of culinary education.

Chef Hoffman describes his style as "American cuisine inspired by classic European techniques." He tries to respect the culture and traditions from which he borrows, while also honoring the local farmers and artisan purveyors who provide him with the superb ingredients that make his food so delicious. In his current position, he oversees other chefs to teach them his style of cooking, helping them interpret and redefine American cuisine in order to embody the Lark Creek Restaurant Group's unwavering commitment to provide the best seasonal, farm-fresh American fare.

Chef Hoffman's style is the result of a long career packed with inspiration. His biggest culinary inspirations have included Richard Olney, one of the most important food writers of the 20th century, who had a huge influence on nouvelle cuisine and California cuisine; Madeline Kamman, a four-star restaurateur, PBS cooking show host, and co-founder and director of The School for American Chefs; and Elizabeth David, who has long been credited for introducing French and Italian cuisine into British homes.

Despite having worked for some very talented chefs, Chef Hoffman says he's taught himself a great deal, too, by reading and traveling, and by experimenting with the techniques and ingredients that he's discovered abroad.

Still, there's always room for formal education-although not always at culinary school. "You get what you put into it," Chef Hoffman says of culinary education. "I could write a doctoral thesis on this, but [culinary schools] are a double-edged sword. They are great because they promote the profession, and that is always good. However, they tend to give their students an unrealistic goal of quickly attaining chef 'stardom' without the hard work or natural talent that goes into making most chefs successful. As well, the cost of tuition is so inflated that I get many cooks who come and work for us for a year, and then take the first sous chef job someone throws at them so they can make a bit more to pay back their loans. By doing this, they cap the most important part of the culinary education-that is the entire apprenticeship."

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