He planned to be an entrepreneur, but becoming a chef was a surprise.
Carl Schroeder ’91 was a manager at a sporting goods store when he began to question his career choice. Thumbing through a business book for inspiration, he found his true calling: professional chef.
A week later, Schroeder was washing dishes and doing prep work at a restaurant.
“I did that for almost two years to get enough experience to get into the Culinary Institute of America,” Schroeder says. “I was dead set on someday opening my own restaurant. I never saw my final stop as working for someone else.”
Today, Schroeder is the executive chef and proprietor of Market Restaurant + Bar in Del Mar, Calif., owner of Banker’s Hill Bar and Restaurant in San Diego, and a three-time James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for Best Chef Pacific.
While he always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, he never expected to become a chef. At Redlands, he studied business administration and participated in football, track, and the Pi Chi fraternity, but he was “not a cook, whatsoever.”
When he arrived at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Schroeder found his undergraduate degree gave him an advantage over his peers who did not attend college. “Having that background also gave me a lot of confidence when it came time to do my own thing,” he says. “There are many unknowns in the restaurant business, but having my degree, I wasn’t starting from zero.”
Prior to launching his first business, Schroeder worked at a number of high-profile restaurants, including Michael Mina’s Aqua in San Francisco and Bradley Ogden’s Lark Creek Inn in Marin County. The San Diego native returned to his hometown in 2002 to help Ogden open Arterra Restaurant, and shortly afterward decided to strike out on his own. In 2006, he opened the Market Restaurant + Bar and has been busy ever since.
“It’s a lot of hard work, every day,” he says. “I never get complacent. There’s so much competition, and I’m constantly thinking that we have to get better.”
Profit margins are slim in restaurants, and Schroeder has instilled in his staff that it doesn’t matter how last night went, every day starts fresh. Market Restaurant’s menu changes daily, with dishes made from locally grown, hand-picked ingredients.
Despite his fast-paced career, Schroeder carved out time during early mornings and late nights to write the Market Restaurant + Bar Cookbook. It includes “solid” recipes that Schroeder hopes will inspire cooks at home to make seasonal specialties. He likely has enough fodder for another book on the countless celebrities and politicians he has cooked for, including President Bill Clinton, actor Henry Winkler, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk (one of his restaurant’s investors) and football star Jerry Rice, who went into the kitchen and took selfies with the crew.
When he’s not planning menus, making restaurant upgrades or meeting diners who are also Redlands alumni—Schroeder says this happens at least once a month—the chef is with his family: wife, Brandi, and kids, Jake, 18, Eric, 14, and Ava, 4. He doesn’t take what he has for granted and won’t stop striving to give his guests the best dining experience he can offer.
“I’m just a guy with a dream who was fortunate to learn skills at the University of Redlands and from a lot of good chefs along the way,” he says. “It has been a slow, steady building of knowledge, which really allows you to succeed in the long run.”
—Catherine Garcia ’06