If you really think about it, chefs are builders. They take all the parts and pieces we call ingredients and layer them together to create a fantastic meal that stands on its own and lives in memory. So, it would make sense that many chefs are watch enthusiasts. Because building a great meal is kind of like building a great watch. Individually, the components of either don’t do much, but put together – they are a thing of beauty.
Peter Servold, chef and owner of Pete’s Paleo, is a busy entrepreneur and a budding watch collector. He is methodical and a planner. He is a rule-follower, and cites that as a prepared chef “if you do one thing out of order, then none of it works.” This methodical inclination comes through when he begins to talk about his life, his business, and his watch collection. Pete tells the story like he would build a dish, foundation first, piecing the narrative together as he goes along until you have a holistic view of his life.
It starts with a man, his father, flipping burgers at 17 and working his way up to managing the southeastern region of a major fast food chain, retiring at 54. It moves on to an influential grandmother teaching him to bake an apple pie from scratch, and continues with him admitting that he used to run home from school to watch back-to-back episodes of “Great Chefs of the World.” This is how Pete ended up in Atlanta, and how he fell in love with food. Unknowingly, his childhood was setting him up to be a chef.
Fast forward to 2010 where he is slinging drinks, waiting tables, and his future wife, Sarah, walks into the bar. It’s like any other love story, where the guy will do almost anything to impress the girl. For Peter, the chef, this meant doing a paleo challenge at their gym. Here, he meanders back into rules and methods, describing paleo cooking, its strict guidelines, and how it became the foundation of his now bi-coastal business.
During that paleo challenge, Peter found himself cooking meals for other members of his gym. While they were making baked chicken and broccoli, he was making full-flavored and gourmet food. He understood the rules of paleo, and had the training to execute them. This prompted him to start a meal service in Atlanta, but then Sarah got a job in San Diego. So, Peter followed, started Pete’s Paleo, married Sarah, and started his watch collection.
For their wedding, Sarah gave him a 1947 OMEGA Seamaster. She took a risk, purchasing the watch from an online auction site, and almost immediately it stopped working. He went to have it serviced, the shop said they had never seen one like it before. They suggested sending it to Geneva for repair. The watch was back six months later and had been rebuilt using original parts. It turned out that this watch was extremely rare. It was commissioned for Swiss fighter pilots at the end of WW2 as a congratulatory gift. He now wears this watch for date nights, special occasions, and any time he wants to be reminded of his wife.
Peter thinks about what goes into the creation of each watch, like he does with each plated dish. When he looks at his wrist his thought goes beyond a watch’s function of telling time. For him it’s “not just the time you are seeing. You are seeing all of that thought and ingenuity put into a beautiful product.”
His Bell & Ross Phantom was the next watch in his collection. Bell & Ross watches are designed to be tough. Used by the French bomb squad, it withstands the kitchen and has turned into his everyday watch. He purchased this as a gift to himself when his business began to thrive. When he looks at it, he thinks of all times he went to work at 4:30 in the morning and left at 11:30 at night. He thinks of how in the San Diego area, of the 47 gyms that he approached to partner with, 46 turned him down. He is reminded of cleaning out 401Ks to fund an idea, and wiping out savings when a huge shipment of sold meals was lost by a carrier. Nothing makes him feel more like he earned it than looking at that watch.
It’s during this that he mentions Sun Tzu’s Art of War and the philosophy that “if you think about every outcome and make peace with all of those possible outcomes, then you will always be ready.” He uses this philosophy to guide his kitchen, his employees, and the Pete’s Paleo business and adds that he has read the book more times than he can count. He says that “good food is good because it’s thoughtful. You have to plan, you have to care, and watches are the same.”
Most recently he purchased his OMEGA Chronograph from Crown & Caliber while visiting our offices. He fell in love with the black dial, polished chrome, and classic feel. Oftentimes, OMEGA will have a lot of text on the faces of their watches, but this one is very minimalist, which stood out to Peter. This is his tuxedo watch. It’s what he wears when goes to fundraisers, events, and other formal occasions on his calendar.
These days Pete’s Paleo is a total success. It has 45 employees, ships thousands of meals each week, and has kitchens in Atlanta and San Diego. Peter and Sarah have built a business and a family together. His watches remind him of the journey they have taken. They are expecting their second child soon, and that influential Grandmother who taught him to bake a pie? Well, their daughter Lois Marie inherited her name, and hopefully, the same love of food.