Chef Mark Fischer on treating knives badly, pussies and unicorns
330 7th Street, Glenwood Springs; 970-230-9234
This is part one of my interview with Mark Fischer, exec chef-owner of Phat Thai, The Pullman and Six89. Part two of our chat will run tomorrow.
"I may have watched The Galloping Gourmet on TV, but we were the children of Clarence Birdseye -- the guy who invented frozen food," quips Mark Fischer. "My mom's cooking was marginal, and she was raising three boys, so it was frozen fish sticks on Friday, and Sunday was invariably pot roast." In fact, says Fischer, he didn't taste butter -- real butter -- until he was eighteen. "My mother embraced all of the conveniences of modern living; we were margarine people."
At the time, that was just fine with Fischer, the longtime exec chef/owner of Six89 in Carbondale, Phat Thai in Carbondale and Cherry Creek and the Pullman in Glenwood Springs. Growing up, he admits, "food was nutrition," and cooking, he says, "never really resonated with me."
The Pittsburgh native moved to Boulder to attend CU, dropped out, relocated to West Virginia to finish his degree in biochemistry, then moved back to Pittsburgh, where he got a job tending bar, which soon morphed into a line gig when a cook didn't show up for his shift. "Tending bar isn't a graceful way to age -- at least not for me -- so when a cook failed to appear, they asked me if I wanted to cook, and I was like, fuck it, how difficult can it be?" recalls Fischer. The change from bartender to cook, he says, was "engaging enough" for him to consider culinary school. "It never really occurred to me that cooking would be a suitable career; I was convinced that I was going to medical school." He enrolled in the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts...and graduated as valedictorian of his class.
When not immersed in the culinary classroom, Fischer cooked at a restaurant that, he maintains, "was arguably the best place to be at that time in my career." It was the late '80s, remembers Fischer, and the restaurant was bringing in whole animals that would hang from the walk-in. It was procuring its produce, too, from local farmers, and the menu changed weekly, sometimes daily, depending upon what it could source. And those philosophies, says Fischer, have been ingrained in him ever since.
After four years spent brushing up on his butchery skills -- and embodying the farm-to-table movement -- he headed to Aspen. "Every guy has that recessive gene that tells him that he wants to be a ski bum, so I went there to ski, as everyone should," Fischer jokes.