Pete Marczyk, chef-owner of Marczyk Fine Foods, sounds off on why food regulation makes him want to throw his baguette
This is part one of my interview with Pete Marczyk. Part two of our chat will run tomorrow.
Bread head, wine geek, cheese gigolo, butter junkie. Ask Pete Marczyk, the chef and co-owner of Marczyk Fine Foods (and Marczyk Fine Wines) what moves him, and he'll point to the golden baguette, blot of Brie and smear of Plugrá butter that's his late-afternoon pick-me-up. The wine comes later, usually at home with Barbara, his wife and the market's "queen bee." The two of them met more than a decade ago at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, where Barbara was a founding partner; Pete, meanwhile, was a "garden-variety broker selling stock" at Merrill Lynch.
"Now I sell chicken stock and veal stock," quips the 45-year-old market guru, wild-mushroom stalker and unapologetically acerbic East Coaster, who was born and raised in rural western Massachusetts, where he lived on a 10,000-square-foot lot that doubled as a farm. "My mom was hard-core about buying, raising and growing good food, and we had a huge garden, fruit trees, berries and chickens and rabbits -- as pets and for food -- and it was growing up in that kind of environment that got me in this business," says Pete. "We were eating the kind of food that we're still eating and making now -- food that's local and seasonal. I'm still nostalgic for all of those tastes."
His first (and only) job in the food business before he and Barb opened their original market in 2002 (a second Marczyk's opened last summer on East Colfax) was tossing pizzas and creating soups at a pub in East Hampden, Massachusetts, a gig that also introduced him to the finesse of shucking oysters. "It was a cool job, and it gave me some foundation for what I do today. I've always been an avid cook, and food, in many ways, defines who I am," says Pete.
Still, he admits that cooking was "my avocation, not my vocation." After three summers behind the line at the pub, he went to the University of Vermont, where he "baked bread with hippies whose parents lived in communes," he recalls. After graduating, he worked in construction until he moved to Denver in 1990 to "flee from a girl."
But while he ditched the female, he never strayed far from the burners, and the whole time he was hustling stocks, he had a game plan to open a neighborhood market. "I grew up with them, and when I met Barb, we laid out a plan to build it, jumped in the deep end and never gave up, but I'm not going to lie: The first two years were really tough, and we had to retool the business," he reveals.