Imperial Beach resident Jack Fisher has just been named the chef de cuisine at SEA 180, the Cohn Restaurant Group's beachfront eatery within the coastal community's new boutique hotel, Pier South, where he'll work with executive chef Ken Irvine.
Though he started in savory, he's spent the better part of his career in command of pastry kitchens, including Region, Jack's La Jolla and Addison. Fisher's done multiple stays at NINE-TEN in La Jolla, where he also served as sous chef for Jason Knibb during the chef's "Iron Chef" battle; along the way, he also founded an eponymous line of confections. Most recently, Fisher was executive pastry chef for the Urban Kitchen Group.
Eater caught up with the chef to talk about switching from the sweet to savory side of the kitchen, the state of pastry chefs and what it means to be coming home to IB to cook.
Was the decision to take the job mainly based on its location?
Well it's always interesting when you find out that someone's building a $20M hotel in your backyard and that it's going to have a restaurant.
Were you looking to move out from the pastry side of things?
I've been thinking about doing that for a few years now. There's a lot more that I can do with my career on the savory side that pastry just hasn't offered.
Is that something that's especially true in San Diego?
It's true anywhere; executive chefs make double what pastry chefs make. Executive chefs have more responsibilities and a whole kitchen to oversee. In pastry, we have our little wonder world of sweets, which is great, but at some point I had to make a different choice.
At what stage is SEA 180 at now?
Right now we're working on the menu and looking at the space. I've never been into a project this early, so it's neat to be able to see things from the ground up and be able to participate in planning some of the base level stuff that normally I've just walked into.
Do you feel like you're getting time to retrain yourself on the savory side?
As part of my training I'll be going around to other CRG restaurants. I know how to butcher just about anything that walks through the door, but I think I'll be working on get that line cook mentality back and just sharpening up a little bit.
Will you still oversee pastry?
Yes, this is unique for me because it won't just be one area that's an extension of me, it's really the whole menu.
Will you help the entire restaurant group with dessert?
It hasn't been discussed yet but if it's menu or recipe development, I'm very open to that.
What do you hope this restaurant will mean to Imperial Beach?
It's going to employ a lot of locals and that's really exciting. From a food perspective, I'm hoping that it's a point of light for everyone to see what the culinary scene in San Diego is like. Things have trickled slightly into Coronado, but that's where it has stopped; South Bay's kind of the land of taco shops and fast food. It's going to be a great place for date nights, special occasions and just to get something good in the neighborhood.
What will the menu focus on?
We want the menu to be approachable but eclectic. Right now we're working on a Baja Med thing and a lot of local seafood and produce. Suzie's Farm is just a mile from my house, so we're going to be the closest to them. And we'll be working with Catalina Offshore and local fisherman to provide our daily catch.
Will you miss the dessert world?
My last day at CUCINA urbana was kind of interesting. Realistically, it was probably the last time that I will be in the position of a pastry chef. But throughout my career, the more I worked on the savory cuisine side of things, the better my desserts became. It kind of gave me that left brain/right brain balance.
What's the future of the pastry chef? Are fewer restaurants putting resources towards someone dedicated in that position?
I think that the good restaurants will still have a need for them but I also think that great pastry chefs are few and far between. People need to step up their game otherwise restaurants are just going to out-source.
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