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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Chuck Perley, Owner of Le Pescadeux, and Actor Extraordinaire, Including First Actor to Ever Speak in a Music Video Our Coverage Sponsored by Fresh Origins

Chuck Perley

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Hailing from Montreal, Chuck Perley grew up in a culinarily-motivated environment for the first two decades of his life. His parental descendants came from Poland after the first World War and his maternal descendants came from Brittany, France much earlier in the eighteenth century. Chuck’s mom was the cook of the family and she was quite popular among the neighborhood kids as they often came to the Perley’s for Chinese Garlic Spareribs and Dirty Rice. At the age of 14, Chuck picked up The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand which was life-altering philosophically and focused him on going for it all, and never would back down or be bored in life. 

In fifth grade, Ms. McDougal gave Chuck a mantra: “By hook or by crook Charles, we’ll get you through!” Every time Chuck hits a life mogul, he references this adage and is inspired to carry on, and another favorite saying is “Go Habs, GO!” Senior year of high school in Montreal, Chuck played Colonel Pickering in Pygmalion and received a standing ovation. He thought standing ovations are not so bad…and also Chuck performed as MC of the senior class talent show at Malcolm Campbell High in Montreal. If you are not Canadian and from the 60’s era, you should be aware that high school ended in the 11th grade then, and Chuck was among the youngest in his class; he entered college at the ripe of young age of 15! He is brilliant.

After high school, Chuck went on to study economics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, but Chuck strongly preferred performing on stage in the plays there. Incidentally, concurrently in 1968 Chuck’s parents Jack and Annie Perley opened the first Dean and DeLuca-type epicerie in Montreal called Charcuterie Le Cartier (they sold ten years later and retired). After two years of college at McGill, the acting bug bit Chuck and he was forever changed. Chuck then studied with John Strasberg (son of Lee) at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal for five years following a stellar audition by Chuck. His most notable competition at the time was Richard Dreyfus, who was the only one to beat him out in the role of Duddy in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler in 1972.

In Canada, Director David Cronenburg placed Chuck in his first film called Shivers as the character Bobby. This was instrumental in Chuck’s move to Toronto, the number one English-speaking acting city in Canada. David was working at the CBC at the time, and Chuck auditioned for a role however, David convinced Chuck that he was better suited to be the next Gene Kelly of Broadway, and thus Chuck came to New York in 1978. We are lucky to say he has been in Manhattan ever since!

Chuck had a pre-arranged agent in New York City and upon looking at his face, encouraged Chuck to be gangsters and cops in movies due to his rugged style and also voice-overs. Much to Chuck’s chagrin, Gene Kelly routines were not in the cards. In the early 80’s Chuck was among the first to be featured in Law and Order. Chuck Perley did Canada Dry national commercials, and many voice-overs in commercials. Chuck was a narrator in various independent films, and it is also nice to know he is the first actor to EVER speak in a music video in 1985 in a Bon Jovi spot: "In and Out of Love"-see 1:16 into the video "24 Hours, Boys!"   Martin Kahan, the music video director, approached Chuck as he wanted to change the concept of the performance video to the musicians being cast in scenes that Martin would create, telling a small story as we know videos to be today. Chuck did twelve music videos for Martin and the Bon Jovi spot was the 4th; Chuck may be celebrated in the Guinness Book of World Records for this legendary accomplishment and is being vetted at the moment and we hope this interview puts the Guinness people over the edge! 

The entire time Chuck was pursuing acting, he also worked in restaurants as everything from a bartender to a maĆ®tre d to manager and waiter, and in 1991 he took the plunge as his wife at the time kicked him out of bed and said “Mutual Funds!” She was into growth and income and thought Chuck should open a restaurant. And so he did and Le Pescadou on King Street and Sixth Avenue was born as Chuck partnered up with Titou of Chez Jacqueline and Gascogne fame. From 1991 to 2006, Chuck ran this acclaimed Provence-inspired French Seafood Bistro noted for Le Plateau de Fruits de Mer and Bouillabaisse, not to be confused with Bouillabaisse Quebecoise (in this version shellfish is included), which is celebrated here at Le Pescadeux. 

However, in Manhattan when rents go up, tough decisions need to be made and by hook or by crook in 2009, Le Pescadeux opened and Chuck was the sole proprietor behind this culinary star. In his sabbatical between 2006 and 2009, Chuck traveled to see his family in Canada and also in Europe to see old friends and caught up on season after season of Law and Order. In July 23, 2009 all was ready to go including the liquor license and Le Pescadeux opened. Chuck’s unique concept of the French Canadian culinary migration from when they first landed in the Maritimes through to Quebec and following the Acadian trail down the Eastern seaboard to Louisiana is a singular sensation of all laudable edible accomplishments in Manhattan! For the first time in Manhattan and possibly in America, Chuck introduced the first new menu concept of two legitimate half-orders of fish from a selection of six fish prepared two different ways on the same plate. In this way you can have your fish and eat it too! (not your cake since it’s Le Pescadeux!)  We could not be more thrilled to present Chuck Perley as our latest Mover and Shaker!  Peachy Deegan interviewed Chuck Perley for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first culinary memory? 
Chuck Perley: I was fooling around with a black pepper shaker as a baby and I got the pepper in my eyes. My grandfather, whom I loved deeply, successfully eliminated the black dust from my eyes then. You will not find black pepper on the table at Le Pescadeux! 

What would you like to act in today in film? 
Bond, James Bond! 

What would you like to act in today in television? 
Law and Order, baby! I love that show! 

We hear BonJovi has a restaurant in New Jersey; have you been to it or better yet, has he been to Le Pescadeux? (New York restaurants trump New Jersey everything according to Peachy…) 
No I haven’t been to his restaurant, but I was interviewing a manager about six months ago at lunchtime and a couple was having lunch during the interview. I went up to the couple to inquire about the quality of their cuisine and they answered in the affirmative: “The omelette was delicious, thank you!” and the couple paid and left. The interviewee said to me-do you know who that is? And I did not. It was Jon BonJovi and his wife! I raced out and asked him if he was Jon BonJovi, and Jon offered to give me an autograph. I said: “No! I have a cute story that I tell in the restaurant! I was an actor!” Jon said to me: “You have a nice voice!” Me: “Thank you! I am the first actor ever to speak in a music video!” Jon: “Really? Which one?” I point my finger at Jon and announce declaratively: “Jon BonJovi In and Out of Love!” Jon points his finger back at me and says “You’ve got 24 hours, boys!” I say: “I think we should go on tour together!” Jon says: “I don’t think that would be a good possibility…” 

Did you keep in touch with Martin Kahan and if so what does he think is on the cutting edge of music videos today? 
No. He had a bad accident. He was in Nashville and never recovered from this nasty injury. 

Has Law and Order filmed at either of your restaurants and if not how can we get them to? 
No they haven’t yet, but the Executive Producer of Law and Order SVU is Ted Kotchef, and he was the director of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, one of my first films. Of course he should come over here for Chrissake! I was his good luck charm in that movie! 

Does Richard Dreyfus have a restaurant? 
Not that I’m aware of! He is a damn good actor; I have to admit. And a great poker player. 

Who is your favorite hockey player? 
Yvan Cournoyer a short fast right-wing for the Montreal Canadians! The roadrunner and a lethal wrist shot! 

What makes French Canadian cuisine the best of them all? 
It’s a cross between Belgium and Northern France and the sauces are heavier as it is bloody cold up in Canada! It’s delicately balanced and nourishing. You will love it or the ghost of Jacques Cousteau will come to your house and never forgive you! 

What fish should people know about and why? 
Every restaurant nowadays is hooked on branzino. I’m tired of it. We use North Atlantic Dorado which we serve 97% boneless keeping on the head and the tail; it’s sweet and delicious, a wonderful fish! 

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
My mom! My mother taught me how to enjoy life and go for it no matter what anyone says. She told me I was something special and I believe it! 

What are you proudest of and why? 
I’ve built two special and memorable restaurants in Manhattan, the most competitive restaurant city in the world. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 
Scriptwriter! My imagination runs rampant…

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? 
Two stars New York Times and numerous fantastic reviews

What one word best describes you and why? 
Survivor-I’ve lived through 9/11 and this recession in the restaurant business. 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 
Film Forum! They have the best popcorn in all of New York.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 
Rafetto’s Pasta 

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why? 
Josh Shapiro because he’s like me but ten years younger! He has a lot more energy.

What is your favorite drink? 
Chucky after Six: Campari, Fresh Orange Juice, Fresh Lime Juice shaken hard with lots of ice in a high ball. It cuts the dust of the day. 

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 
I have no clue! 

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
The Harrison

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
An astronaut in space for a day! That would be kind of cool. 

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 
I think Bouley should change his name to Perley! 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
The funniest was when I left a Yankees game early in the 10th inning to get back to the original restaurant and in the 11th inning, Derek Jeter makes his famous dive into the stands-but that’s in the Bronx and I was returning to the restaurant in Manhattan. Also I was a Maitre D at MSG and I saw Billy Jean King practice in the bowels of MSG when she was playing Chrissy Evert-it was so cool to watch them play and chat.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
New York City has its own smells of culture and a myriad of food possibilities-the aromas-the hum-it keeps me going! 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
Marilyn Monroe because I’m a Libra and the Libra’s motto is beauty, art and love and a few bucks to afford it! 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
I once went out with a ballerina who worked for the Joffrey… 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world? 
I have a business philosophy-as an economic major-nice people are treated nicely and the other ones are just treated. If you’re a nice person you’ll get anything you want…I only want to deal with nice people! Then whatever you need, whatever you want…

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here? 
Everything is wonderful here! I love New York. New York is my home and whether it’s overrated or underrated it keeps you going! 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 
I Drank the Peachy Deegan! You can look forward to drinking it here in 2013! 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 
When you come out of the womb and you’re attacked by Venus pounding you on the head and fall in love every 14 seconds of your life…

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 
By coming to dinner at Le Pescadeux and enjoying yourself here! 

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