Rudolph Speckamp, chef and restaurant owner, dies

Rudolph Speckamp, co-owner of the popular Rudy’s 2900 restaurant who had cooked for President George Bush at Camp David, died of blood disease Sept. 11 at New York Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center.

He was 71 and formerly lived in Finksburg.

Born in Kaufbeuren in Bavaria, Germany, he was the son of Helmut Speckamp and his wife, Lisalotte. He began cooking when he was 14 and apprenticed at the Sanatorium Eichwald in Bad Woerishofen. He then enrolled at Cornell University in New York.

In a 1985 Sun story, he said, “I wanted to go into hotel management and I was accepted at Cornell, but first I got drafted. … In March, 1968 I found myself at a resort called Parris Island.”

He joined the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970. He left military service as a sergeant.

In 1974, he came to Baltimore to work at the Samuel Owings 1767, an Owings Mills restaurant.

While there, he met Gail Patricia Philbin, who was the restaurant’s accountant and bookkeeper. They later married.

He opened Capriccio in Little Italy, which he described as one of the first Northern Italian restaurants in the area. He also went on to cook at Captain Harvey’s in Baltimore County.

He met his future business partner, Rudy Paul, a fellow German-born chef, who was then at Peerce’s Downtown on Liberty Street. They bought Finksburg’s Branding Iron restaurant, renamed and redecorated it and opened Rudys’ 2900 in 1983.

“We serve [venison and pheasant] like they do in Bavaria — lots of red cabbage and homemade spaetzle," Mr. Speckamp told The Sun in 1986, adding that his patrons also enjoyed his grouper with potato crust, lobster pot pie and salmon marinated in teriyaki and hoisin sauces.

Mr. Speckamp served on several USA Culinary Olympic teams. He earned his Master Chef Certification from the American Culinary Federation in 1988.

“Culinary iron men, like Speckamp … thrive under pressure,” said a 1999 Sun story about him. In that article, Mr. Speckamp said master chefs aren't necessarily the best in the country but they are among the most disciplined.

In the article, Mr. Speckamp said: “A good chef has got to be dedicated, have talent and common sense, treat food with respect, and you can’t be stubborn.” Of his experience in Baltimore he said, “One thing about Baltimore. It’s a little more critical than some other places. If you can make it in Baltimore, you can make it all over.”

He and his partner closed Rudys’ 2900 after 23 years. Both partners said they wanted to take it easier and spend more time with their families.

"It was heartfelt and humbling to see how we touched so many lives in moments we took for granted in our business — we helped people celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, bat mitzvahs " he said in The Sun. "These milestones were daily routines for our industry. We were privileged to be there."

He then joined the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park as an industry consultant. “Our clients include hotels, casinos, steamship lines, airlines, restaurant chains and food manufacturers," he said in a 2008 Sun story. He said they also did research and development and helped design product lines.

He later joined the college’s cooking faculty and taught culinary fundamentals in the college’s degree programs. He taught an introduction to cooking theories and techniques class, where he instructed his students in the use of kitchen equipment, knife skills, classical vegetable cuts, grand sauces, stocks, soups, timing and multitasking, station organization and food costing.

“I looked at him as the Clint Eastwood of chefs. He was the strong and silent type.” said Dr. Tim Ryan, the institute’s president. “When he spoke to you, he was worth listening to. He also had unique training — a mixture of German heritage and Marine Corps training.”

Dr. Ryan also said, “He was favorite of the Bush family too.”

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Regina Coeli Roman Catholic Church, 2 Harvey St. in Hyde Park. Marine Corps honors will follow the service. Burial will take place at Arlington National Cemetery.

Survivors include his wife of 40 years, who was his bookkeeper at his restaurant; a daughter, Tanya Speckamp of San Marcos, Texas; and four brothers: Ulf Speckamp, Wolfgang Speckamp, Claus Dieter Speckamp and Helmut Speckamp, all of Germany.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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