A few years ago, I met Katherine “Katie” Fisco, a professional cook, who had attended a culinary school and had a few good years of professional restaurant experience under her belt.
She then worked for Chef Alex Perry at Vestige, an award-winning fine-dining establishment at 715 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs.
Fisco was then working the pastry station and as a line cook during service.
I was much taken by her skills in the kitchen, a place I had spent countless hours photographing the food for which the restaurant is famous. She had the right moves in a busy kitchen, maintained a calm during the storm of a busy service and had a certain panache about her.
So it was surprising to learn recently that Fisco had not only left Vestige but that she had also decided to leave the professional cooking world as well.
Why would someone whose professional career seemed to be on an upward trajectory leave when the future looked so bright?
Over coffee recently at Greenhouse on Porter, 404 Porter Ave., Ocean Springs, Ficsco said she and her husband, 1st Lt. Eugene Fisco (USAF) had adopted a young boy and that she was happily cooking at home now.
“I always had a heart for kids,” she said, "especially kids that were lost, and adopting seemed the right way to go.”
She discussed the differnce in cooking at home and in a busy professional kitchen.
“Sure it is different,” she said. “It is the smallest restaurant you can ever have, cooking for just three people and the same three people every day. It is challenging in a different way than a restaurant kitchen, but it is still a challenge.”
In regard to the transition, she said, “In a restaurant you cater to a specific theme, the menu and style of cooking the chef has established. At home the options are wide open, but you find out quickly what everyone likes. With a kid it is a matter of training their palate. You have got to show them that fruits, cheese and vegetables are good for you and delicious.”
It seems that kitchens of all sorts share common challenges, but there is little doubt that years in a professional kitchen give a different perspective.
Katherine has made the transition from the professional world to a home kitchen with a minimum of difficulty, but it is the passion for cooking, whether the kitchen is in a fancy restaurant with Viking-made equipment or at home with an electric stove, that really makes the difference.
Check out the two recipes Katherine shared.
Heirloom Tomato BLTs
Makes 2 Stacked BLTs
4 slices sourdough (Serious Breads Bakery in Bay St. Louis has the good stuff)
1 red bell pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
6 slices of thick cut smoked bacon
4 leaves of crisp butter lettuce
2 medium sized heirloom tomatoes (cut to ¼-inch slices)
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Place bacon on a lined sheet tray and place into oven. Cook until desired crispness. Making the bacon in the oven is easier than doing it on the stove top. Your bacon will stay nice and flat when it’s cooked evenly, perfect for sandwiches. Once bacon is done, crank the oven up to broil.
2. Coat bell pepper with olive oil and put it into the oven on the second to top rack under the broil. Let it blacken slightly on all sides. Now place into a container with a lid (paper sack will do). The steam will loosen the skin from the pepper, let sit for 3 minutes in container. Peel and deseed. Blend bell pepper with tablespoon of olive oil in the blender. Mix together red pepper puree, lemon juice, pinch of salt, chopped basil and mayo in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Pop slices of sourdough under broiler while you slice up your tomatoes. Toast until golden brown. Heirloom tomatoes this time of year come in a myriad of colors. They are sweet, juicy, have low acidity and are full of flavor. Choose tomatoes that are firm to the touch with a little give, but not soft. Slice your tomatoes to about ¼ inch thick slices. Any thinner and you will miss out on the beauty of our tomatoes.
4. Stack your sandwich like this: bread, mayo, tomato, lettuce, bacon, bread. I like to put mayo on both pieces of sourdough for extra “glue” and flavor.
PB and Banana ‘Ice Cream’ Bars
4 whole bananas
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 oz dark chocolate chips
1. Blend bananas with honey and cinnamon until smooth. Set aside.
2. Put crunchy peanut butter and butter into a mixing bowl. Gradually add powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Now mix in vanilla extract. Set aside.
3. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper. Press peanut butter filling into pan to make one even, flat layer. Remove peanut butter layer.
4. Melt chocolate chips in microwave on low. Pour into the bottom of 9 inch square pan. Put in freezer and let set. Now place peanut butter layer on top of frozen chocolate layer. Pour banana filling on top of peanut butter layer and spread evenly. Let freeze overnight. Cut into bars and enjoy.