Pete Marczyk, chef-owner of Marczyk Fine Foods, sounds off on why food regulation makes him want to throw his baguette
"There are tons of challenges, but I love working with Barb and Paul, my brother, and we have an incredible staff of really bright people and great customers, which is so incredibly gratifying," he says, then jumps up to retrieve a cart from a woman stacking groceries in her car.
When he returns, he turns his attention back to the baguette, nodding his head in approval. "Paul and I have been baking bread now for about the past eight weeks, and I'm telling you, this is good shit," he insists, tearing off a piece, smearing it with Brie and pushing it across the table. "Look, we hand-roll our pie crusts -- restaurants do that, but not markets -- we render our own lard, we're baking our own breads, we know our customers by name, our staff are rock stars, and if you want to know what really separates us from other markets, just taste the potato salad," he urges. "It's New England Saturday-afternoon-picnic potato salad, and it's amazing."
Pete ponders the baguette for another moment, assures a guy that he'll guard his bike while he goes inside to shop, and declares: "I love my job, I love the competition and the challenges, and I enjoy pushing my staff, and I enjoy getting pushed. And I really love saying 'Don't forget to feed the baby.'" He's talking about the bread starter.
In the following interview, Pete talks about his beef with parents who feed their kids food pimped by "cartoon characters," explains why he calls his staff "grinders" and sounds off on why the regulation of food makes him want to throw his baguette.
Six words to describe your food: Keep it simple. Make it great.
Ten words to describe you: Relentlessly and often unappealingly adamant, old-fashioned, passionate, enthusiastic and difficult.
What are your ingredient obsessions? I really like hard-to-get, limited or ephemeral super-local foods -- ingredients with the word "heirloom" in them, or anything that someone took the care and time to produce or forage. Ramps, really wild mushrooms, Alex Seidel's cheese, backyard honey, the little lettuces my wife grows. I love sharing passion through food and telling a story about it. I went through an Anson Mills grain kick recently; we sell them in our freezer because they're milled with bran and germ, which adds a bunch of flavor, but they spoil more readily at room temperature. I made polenta from the red trentino flint polenta integrale about two dozen times over the last few months; it tastes like sweet corn mush, and it's an absolutely incredible product. I think about food ingredients the way a lot of people think about wine: Who is the winemaker? What farming techniques are employed? Where exactly is the vineyard? What makes it special? What clones? Irrigated? Fertilized? We rarely ask these questions about our ingredients, and yet better ingredients make better food, and better farmers make better ingredients. Oh, and right now I'm obsessed with bread flour from Colorado organic hard red winter wheat. It makes some really tasty baguettes.
What are your kitchen-tool obsessions? I like simple, well-made tools that work -- things like the Robot Coupe and my Hobart mixer. They do what they say they're going to do. I also have a short list of knives that go everywhere with me. I'm literally obsessed with well-made shit.