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City Cafe has been a favorite spot for lunch and dinner from the time it opened in 2003.

The atmosphere is inviting, with tables and booths, a bar and an attentive waitstaff. It is also one of the few establishments in town that offers patio dining outside during the summer.

Tending to the culinary end of things is chef Eric Pater, a Rochester native and a ’92 graduate of John Marshall High School. "I moved away for a few years but then decided to come back to raise the family," he says.

In the interim, he cooked in Dallas at a Mediterranean-style jazz club. "I started working in the front as a waiter, host and bartender and begged — literally begged — for a job in the kitchen," he says. "Eventually I got in and I have been in the kitchen ever since."

Pater comes by it naturally. "Most of the men in our family are great cooks and my grandmother was a school cook, so those were big influences," he says.

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After another cooking stint in Denver, he came home and worked for Mark Weimer at Chardonnay for a year prior to assuming the job he has now. "Chardonnay was a great place to work and Mark taught me so much," Pater says.

Basically Pater is self-taught though he does look for ideas and inspiration from some of the country’s premier chefs such as Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in Napa and Bouchon, in New York City.

Holly Ebel of Rochester is a free-lance writer.

Q: How would your describe your cooking style?

A: Fusion more than anything. I like to take the classic dishes and add an Asian touch. I am not a meat and potatoes kind of person, though I cook those here. For myself, I prefer the lighter Asian-style treatments of ingredients.

Q: Do you follow recipes when you cook?

A: Definitely at the restaurant we do because we want to be consistent. When I am home, I experiment more.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

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A: Consistency. Ingredients can vary so much from shipment to shipment. One day a tomato can be just perfect, another day it can be a big disappointment. There are a lot of variables and adjustments we need to be aware of.

Q: When you go out to eat, where do you go?

A: Pho Hoa, on 18th Avenue and 37th Street. I love their food because it is so light. It is also a great bargain. I especially love their noodle bowls.

This recipe is becoming a big seller at City Cafe.

Tuna tartare

Lemon parsley vinaigrette:

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 bunch parsley

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1 cup olive oil

Puree the above ingredients in a food processor. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.

2 ounces diced very fresh sashimi grade tuna

1 teaspoon chopped shallots

1 tablespoon capers

1 tablespoon lemon parsley vinaigrette

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 parsley leaf

1 toast point

Mix together the first 4 ingredients in a bowl, then transfer to a small plate. Garnish with lemon zest and parsley and serve with a toast point. Drizzle a little more vinaigrette around the plate.

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