Recipe for Success: Attorney is a 'foodie' and wine connoisseur


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Gary Peters can thank Betty Crocker for sparking his culinary creativity in childhood.

“My older brother was given ‘Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Kids’ and enjoyed making many recipes,” he explains. “Boys weren’t supposed to be cooks or chefs while I was growing up in Iowa, so my brother set a good example for me.”

Now an environmental attorney with Howard & Howard in Royal Oak, Peters recalls cooking over a campfire in his Boy Scout years.

“We learned all types of outdoor cooking and recipes, and were encouraged to try our own recipes and come up with different dishes for the entire troop,” he says.

In his teens and early 20s, Peters worked summer jobs at Casson & Son Meats in Des Moines that taught him the proper use and care of knives, how to cut and prepare all types of meat and poultry, and how to evaluate the best sources of meat, including different classifications of beef. 

“All this knowledge helped me prepare ‘frugal’ meals early in my marriage,” he says.

After getting married, Peters was usually first home each evening, and would get dinner rolling. Starting simply, and following tips from PBS’ Frugal Gourmet and other Saturday cooking shows (in the days prior to cable and The Food Network), he began purchasing cookbooks and trying numerous recipes. 

Peters has always kept a focus on his Iowa roots; and a favorite recipe is Corn Chowder.

“It’s nothing at all like a chowder you might imagine — more of a soufflé, corn based, which rises while cooked and is served in wedges,” he explains. “It’s been a hit for years at dinner parties, particularly where guests might expect a more ‘refined’ side dish to be served.”     

Another simple dish Peters learned from his mother was Carrots ‘Vichy.’

“She never explained what ‘Vichy’ meant, but it was simple and sounded so sophisticated that I still often make it this day,” he says.   

An inveterate overseas traveler, Peters enjoys taking cooking classes in foreign lands. On a 2014 trip to Hanoi, he took a full day class in Vietnamese cooking, including a 2-hour shopping excursion to local (unrefrigerated) markets to purchase meats, vegetables and other ingredients — “an exceptional experience that taught me to prepare several native Vietnamese dishes,” he says.   

He took a similar full day cooking class in Beijing, where the chef took the group shopping and showed various tricks and recipes to prepare Chinese Mandarin and Szechuan foods.

Peters’ interest in wines developed as a student at the University of Iowa. Graduating a semester early, he found himself with student basketball tickets that were worthless unless he became a student again.

“Voila! A two-hour class in the geography department titled ‘The Wonderful World of Wines” appeared and I enrolled,” he says. “I didn’t understand this was a real class, with no sanctioned wine tasting and required a two-hour exam to pass.”

Exam questions included “What are the specific grape varietals used in a typical Bordeaux,” and “How is port made, what grapes are used and how is it fortified?”

During those student days in the ’70, Iowa had state-run liquor stores, and a “Wine Board” that selected some of the best quality and priced wines. 

“My professor was on the wine board and inspired me to explore these and other wines,” Peters say. 

The professor’s first recommendation was “champagne” made in Napa Valley by Hans Kornell, made with chardonnay grapes in the Méthode Champenoise style — where the effervescence is produced by secondary fermentation in the bottle. 

“At that time, the Hans Kornell ‘champagne’ was still ‘riddled’ by hand — a quarter turn of the bottles over time to coax any sediment to the top of the bottle,” Peters explains. “Hans was a refugee from Germany and had been imprisoned by the Nazis in a concentration camp. The story was intriguing and also opened my eyes to the various types and processes of winemaking.”

Peters also learned wines that can be cellared the longest are often reds, blends of grapes like Bordeaux, or single-varietals like cabernet sauvignon.

“California white and red wines had burst onto the scene at a Paris Wine Tasting in 1976 where the winner was a California Chardonnay — Chateau Montelena — to the shock of all of the French judges,” Peters explains. “Third and fourth place also went to Californian Chardonnays. A California Red also took top honors. Hence began the explosion of California wines, both in quality and price.”

Peters’ oenophile experience grew when his brother-in-law moved to San Jose in 1978 to work for Intel. Twice yearly visits ensued with lengthy wine touring included. Peters met Hans Kornell in person, and made friends with several vintners and winemakers, including Miljenko “Mike” Grgich of Grgich Hills cellars, and smaller vintners such as Richard Kasmier, of KAZ Vineyard and Winery in Sonoma County. 

Peters, who has belonged to many wine clubs, and has purchased and cellared red wines of all types and varietals, bought several cases of 1989 Chateau La Dominique to commemorate the birth of his daughter that year.

“They were enjoyed at her college graduation, marriage, and I anticipate they will be finished off when she graduates with her Ph.D. in clinical psychology next June,” he says.

Although Peters’ cellar is now down to approximately 600 bottles primarily due to his wife’s recent aversion to the sulfates/sulfites in red wines, he continues to serve aged bottles at dinner parties.   

“We recently tasted a 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Smothers Brothers Winery in Sonoma County, and signed by both Dick and Tom,” he says. “Of course to most guests it was barely drinkable after nearly 30 years of cellaring, but to me it was fantastic because it elicited so many wonderful memories of previous wine tours, wine tastings and the many friends with whom I enjoyed those experiences.”

— Two recipes to try —

Here are a couple of Gary Peters’ favorite recipes, from his Iowa roots.

2 cups scraped and thinly sliced carrots
½ cup boiling water
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
Place all ingredients into saucepan
Cover the pan tightly and cook over medium-high heat to form a glaze. Simmer until all of the water is absorbed. Served sprinkled with fresh, chopped parsley

1-¾ cup milk or ½ and ½
1 stick of butter
4 eggs
2-½ cups fresh corn “off the cob”
2 Tbsps. sugar
2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Tabasco (to taste)
Gently melt butter in saucepan, add milk over low heat until almost simmering – set off the heat to cool a bit. Beat eggs. Roughly chop corn in food processor (10 pulses). Butter a Pyrex or similar baking dish (2 Quart - approx. 11-by-8-by-2”). Combine ingredients and place in baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 1-¼ hour. Top should be lightly brown.