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Musician-turned-chef Paul Petersen aims to keep San Antonio's Bar Loretta approachable

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Paul Petersen serves as chef for upcoming Southtown eatery Bar Loretta. - RICHARD CASTEEL
  • Richard Casteel
  • Paul Petersen serves as chef for upcoming Southtown eatery Bar Loretta.
People frequently use the phrase “rockstar chef” to describe raucous, uber-creative culinary masterminds. Not so many chefs, though, can claim to have given up a chase for rock ’n’ roll fame to focus on their food.

But San Antonio native Paul Petersen, chef at Southtown eatery Bar Loretta, which opens later this summer, did just that. After years pursuing fame and freedom with SA-based heavy alt-rockers Gollum, Petersen put away his drumsticks and picked up a chef coat.

We spoke with Petersen about Bar Loretta, opening post-COVID and what it really means to be a rock star in the kitchen.

What can future guests expect from the experience you’re trying to create?

My food is definitely “fancified,” but we don’t want to be a pretentious restaurant. We want to have that neighborhood feel, so people can feel like they can come in on a Tuesday night, and not just for special occasions. My background is in fine dining, but I feel that fine dining is kind of dead in this day and age. People don’t want stuffy, the white tablecloths and all that. So, service will be attentive but not snobby. There are certainly fine dining elements in my cuisine, but I strive to make it really fun and playful, too. “Approachable” is a big word for us. At the end of the day, we’re right in the middle of the neighborhood, and we’re going to embrace that.

How did COVID-19 affect your opening plan?

The pandemic changed the whole game. We didn’t know what was going to happen from one day to the next, and when you fast forward to today, we’re still seeing the impact. Getting product, from time to time, can be difficult. Prices fluctuate more than usual. We’re opening a little bit late, but that may be a blessing in disguise, because still, to this day, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ve just got to keep rolling with the punches, really.

Petersen's Achiote Marinated Salmon “Pastor.” - RICHARD CASTEEL
  • Richard Casteel
  • Petersen's Achiote Marinated Salmon “Pastor.”
Let’s chat about your opening menu. I’m told your style is a little funky.

I’m spinning all sorts of weird stuff these days. For example, we’re going to do a salmon pastor. A play on a pastor taco that … has all the components, but it’s not a taco. It’s just a striking dish. And I’m probably going to get a little crazy and toss some brussels sprouts with chamoy. Serve it with cotija cheese and chili-lime sunflower seeds. We’re having fun, and wanted to stay away from the cheeseball, gimmicky stuff. The brussels with chamoy, as weird as it sounds, just works. We have something to offer that’s new and different, and I think will be welcomed to the neighborhood. We just want to rock ’n’ roll, you know?

That’s a perfect segue. Back in the day, you aspired to be a rock star. I’m curious about how that creative background lent itself to how you think about food.

Chasing rock stardom, I was chasing freedom. The thing about playing rock ’n’ roll music is the creativity that’s involved. That’s what led me to being a chef, is that creativity. A long time ago, I wanted to become a rock star just so I could have enough money to buy my own restaurant. When I realized becoming a rock star wasn’t going to happen, I decided to pack up and chase the other dream. Music and my cuisine is my creativity, my passion. And I do it with heart.

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