He Can Take the Heat
On the job with Chef Edward Fischer
Edward Fischer is a chef who currently teaches cooking classes at Sur la Table and does private in-home lessons, where his gregarious personality lends itself well to working with the public. He began his career in 1984 at an Italian restaurant in Connecticut, where the restaurant’s only oven was a 17-square-foot brick “monstrosity,” he says. Fischer was responsible for rotating pizzas—his record was 52 at once—in the overwhelming heat that the oven threw off. The waiting crowd often stretched down the block. Since then, Fischer has worked in every type of food environment except fast food.
What first drew you to the culinary arts?
It’s the same reason I cook today: instant gratification. Food generally makes people happy. By the time I’ve finished making a dish, I can tell whether I’ve done it right. I like that instant feedback from people, the looks on their faces when they eat or their compliments to the chef. I don’t have to wait a week or two weeks for that report I’ve filed to get read or the project I’m working on to be done, like in other jobs.
What do you love to cook?
I started in an Italian restaurant, so my focus was on Italian cuisine. I still like to make that, especially fresh pasta. I make a lot of nuovo-Italian to this day; it’s probably what I’m best at. Every month the Sur La Table teaching menu changes, which keeps me stepping outside of my comfort zone. As a chef, I need and enjoy that challenge.
What do your students struggle with?
If people are new to cooking or don’t cook regularly, fear of knives slows them down a lot. The prep work is tough and intensive. People can get dazed there. For people who already know how to cook, it’s fear of messing it up. When you’re cooking, you’re rarely cooking just for yourself so there’s always that uncertainty. People get worried that it won’t come out well and that they won’t have the time to redo it. I try to give students a certain level of confidence with my classes. Once people have confidence, I notice they tend to branch out and alter recipes. Generally, 99 out of 100 people agree on what tastes good. Most people enjoy the same tastes, outside of acquired tastes like anchovies. Whether it’s a drastic change or one item at a time, I find that people get more of a feeling of accomplishment and pride when they don’t just blindly follow a recipe. It becomes this kind of high, like a realtor selling his first house. It’s the same for me—I get a kind of high when I improvise a recipe. I love my job because I’m always chasing that.