Frasca Food and Wine's Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson on eating fox tartare and the get-in-and-get-out rule at Frasca
This is part one of my interview with Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, co-owner and executive chef of Frasca Food and Wine. Part two of my chat with Mackinnon-Patterson will run in this space tomorrow.
Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson has some advice for gung-ho chefs who want to work in the illustrious kitchen of Frasca Food and Wine: Get in -- and get out. "When we hire people, we want them to know that we don't want them to stay here for more than eighteen months -- that once they've seen all the seasons once, it's time to move on," says Mackinnon-Patterson, the executive chef of Frasca, Boulder's shrine to the Friuli region of Italy. "It kind of freaks people out when we tell them this, but while we're happy you're here, we'll also be happy when you're gone." There's simply not enough room in the Frasca kitchen for advancement, he insists, and if you wear out your welcome, it only leads to one thing: bottleneck. "Our deal is that we don't want to promote based on seniority," he notes. "We promote on merit."
Mackinnon-Patterson, a 2005 Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef, the recipient of the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef in the Southwest, and a competitor on Bravo's Top Chef Masters, was born in Ontario, got his own culinary start in the kitchen of a St. Louis country club, then jetted off to Paris, where he snagged his Certificat d'Aptitude Professionnelle at the lofty Ecole Gregoire-Ferrandi. He apprenticed at two Michelin star-rated restaurants in France before returning to the States and joining the highbrow crew at Thomas Keller's French Laundry, where he met Bobby Stuckey, a Master Sommelier and his business partner at Frasca, which the two opened in 2004 to near-instant national acclaim.
Mackinnon-Patterson, who says he gets ten resumés a week from desperate chefs who want to land a job in his newly expanded kitchen -- and a lot more phone calls from cooks who want to stage -- is cynical when it comes to today's culinary pedigree. "There are so many chefs right now who just want to hang out rather than cook -- chefs who have a taco stand or a sandwich shop by day and then say, 'Fuck it, I'm going to turn this into a value-driven sit-down restaurant with table service at night' -- and that bugs the shit out of me," gripes Mackinnon-Patterson.
If you operate a restaurant that way, he wonders, "how are you going to know how to open a bottle of wine or, for that matter, help someone put their coat on?" Front- and back-of-the-house training has become a lost art, he laments: "The restaurant industry -- especially when it comes to chefs -- is pathetically non-academic." So much so, he says, that if you want to be a chef, you should have to accumulate a minimum number of training hours in the business, whether it's in restaurants, at culinary school, or both.