Interview with Chef Todd Fisher, of Carmel Valley, California’s Soon-to-Open Folktake Winery Restaurant

The chef likes to foster a fun environment in the kitchen
Chef Todd Fisher
Folktale Winery

Fisher's new restaurant is under construction.

I met Todd Fisher at Folktale Winery in Carmel Valley, California. He threw a dinner party for me at his soon-to-be-opened restaurant at Folktale Winery in Carmel-By-The-Sea. It was delightful, with good food, great company, and excellent surroundings. Fisher, who’s perhaps best known as host of Travel Channel’s United States of Bacon, is a genius chef and a great host. I sat down with him afterward and asked him a few questions.

The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?
My dad loved to cook; he was fearless in the kitchen. When my parents got divorced, my dad, brother, and I moved to a one bedroom studio in North Beach with a tiny little cut-out of a kitchenette and my dad stopped cooking. And believe it or not, I got tired of eating out as a kid. I remember asking my dad if we could just eat at home once in a while. So with a dorm-size refrigerator, which meant a trip to the market for every meal, I fell in love with the process, planning, sourcing, preparing, and then seeing the response from my dad and brother.

Do you have a specialty dish?
I have found over the years that our signature changes, food evolves. So over my career I have had several specialties, dishes that were a signature created for each restaurant. Crispy tempura oysters with a soy, ginger, cashew sauce; or an apricot jam glazed salmon filet or my Change Your Life Grits & Shrimp. One of my favorites of all time, the Donut-Duck Dog: a handmade duck frankfurter on a glazed, raised donut with a Brussels sprout choucroute, truffles, and crushed tater tots. But I guess if I had to pick one thing that is my specialty, I would say steak tartare. I love it, my bride loves it, my kids love it, I make steak tartare “cakes” for my wife’s birthday, my kids request if for their birthday dinners, it’s become a Fisher family thing.

What kind of atmosphere do you create in the kitchen?
Fun, respectful, gracious, and curious. I will often tell people, “If it ain’t fun I don’t do it,” but the reality is, everything I do I make fun. I grew up in a kitchen were we laughed, we joked, and we worked our asses off. We sing, we joke, we laugh a lot in my kitchens, and we work hard. I respect my team and expect their respect in return, I am grateful for their efforts, their passion, and their ideas, and I want graciousness to be spread throughout the kitchen. And I believe we must learn every day. In every situation there is an opportunity to learn, and to stop learning is to assume you know it all. I encourage my team to ask why, ask how, and ask often.

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What do you plan for your future?
In the immediate future we’re working building a restaurant on the Folktale Winery property, which is exciting. We have other restaurant projects on the horizon. I have 5 kids, so I have a lot of work planned for the future and a lot of fun as well. Long term, I plan to walk curiously through life holding my bride’s hand and live happily ever after.