Clean Plate Charlie: How did you become a chef?
Chef Francy Deskin: Well, I got my culinary education kind of in two parts. I knew upon graduation from high school that I would want to be a chef, but with some counseling from the guidance department at school and my parents, we decided to take a more well-rounded approach, so I went the University of Central Florida, and I got my degree in hospitality management.
I still wanted to be a chef, so in my junior year, I started to seriously explore culinary schools, and that ended up as a road trip across the country with my boyfriend, who's now my husband. We were going to go to the National Restaurant Association Food Show, and we were going to hit up a bunch of culinary schools and as many amusement parks as we could. We wanted to ride the big roller coasters.
It was six weeks on the road in a Honda Accord. We went to a lot of different culinary schools. We went to Johnson & Wales in Virginia, we went to Johnson & Wales in Vail, Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona, and Johnson & Wales in Miami.
We were going to go to Great Adventure Amusement Park in New Jersey, and it was Wednesday, and they were closed. I was astounded by that, and it was my boyfriend's idea that since we were close to the Culinary Institute of America, we should visit it. I was lukewarm to the idea because when I did my research... it seemed presumptuous and ostentatious, and they rely on their brand. They seemed to toot their own horn. And so anyway, he talked me into it.
So we went to CIA in Hyde Park, New York, and I fell in love. It was seriously head and shoulders above the rest, and it really was very different and very prestigious, and you could see the school pride in action.
Is your husband also a chef?
Yes. We work together presently. We've worked together since 1999. If I ever do private catering gigs, he's my go-to guy all the way. More formally, we started working together at Mark's. It works for us. We're able to delineate, I guess would be the best way to describe it. In the workplace, I'm the boss. For the most part, I have a fairly democratic approach to management, and I lead by example. He's already accustomed to that. When we're home, it's not like I'm still chef Francy. Some people marvel that we work together.
Does everyone at the restaurant know you're married?
It's no big deal, and for the most part, most people don't realize that we're married. He likes to play a joke on new hires. He'll confide in them and say, "I think the chef's kinda cute, don't you? I was thinking about asking her out -- should I?" They're trying to focus on their work, and then he springs on them that we're already married.
You have a daughter. How do you balance the demands of working as a chef and being a mom?
Primarily, I work the day shift. I'm gone all day. I usually get home at 7, 7:30 at night. Honestly at this time and in this economy, I'm happy to have the work. There are a lot of people who have a lot less. My daughter thinks that I should be a teacher so I get spring break and summer break off. She's pretty clever.
Does your daughter watch any chef shows on television? Does she think you're a celebrity?
We don't watch chef shows at home because we don't have television. Robert and I gave up TV back in college, and we don't go back. Any chef shows she sees at someone else's house. TV is not forbidden; we just don't have time for it. She's definitely seen chef shows, and I hear her making references quite a bit. As far as celebrity, I don't think that she thinks of me or Rob as a celebrity. She talks about what we do a lot. I think that makes her very happy and proud.
Chef Francy tells us about the gastropub concept and working at the Office in Part II of our interview, coming soon.
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