Name: Marcos Fernandez
Title: Executive Chef, Nineteen 61 (new Latin cuisine restaurant in Dixieland. He’s also the owner, but he finds it hard to call himself that.)
Define what you do in 25 words or less: I enjoy bringing people together through good food.
What kind of a workplace is it: Where do you spend most of your worktime? Most of the time in the kitchen. I think it’s the type of workplace where the team really enjoys being here. I hire slow and fire fast. I take time to hire the right people. The team has to work together. It there’s something that’s not right, it’s usually the person, and we move them along quickly.
What in your workplace shows off your passions? Food is my passion, so everything. Everything from the decor to the way the plates are set up to the way we serve our food, the way the staff talks to the guests, the way we cook our food, the way we source our food. I have a pig farmer that raises pigs for me that I visit. The integrity and the respect that shows in the greens and the proteins shows my passion and my love of my craft.
What project are you excited about? Id love to be able to have a mini cooking school for not just chefs but for servers to show people how to do things right. I think the biggest problem we have in this community is restaurateurs don’t teach their people the right way to do things because they just want to watch the bottom line — which is important, but if you train good people to do good work, you’re only elevating your restaurant standards. I want to show people how to show love and pride in what they do. I really like teaching people and expressing how much I love what I do.
What’s your most important work tool? My people. Without my team, there’s nothing.
Where do you hire your people? Mostly word of mouth, people I’ve met. My chef worked me at the (Lakeland) Yacht Club. We established that relationship. People are referred to me.
Mac or PC? I own a Mac but I currently use a PC (an Asus touch screen) because my Mac is from 2008.
Apple or Android? Apple
Favorite productivity tools: I use Excel to create checklists for myself and my staff so we can stay on top of our game.
Tip for keeping organized: I use my phone calendar to make sure I’m remembering stuff. I set alarms and it rings to remind me. If not I forget because I get busy working,.
Favorite diversions on your mobile: I’m pretty boring when it comes to that. I have Pandora. I look at the news a lot. I have learning apps my (5-year-old) son uses. I have Zillow so I look at houses.
Favorite information site: This isn’t going to be well received by everybody. I read Fox News and BBC. I like to see what they write about us across the pond; the perceptions are so different.
What do you usually wear to work? I show up for work with my uniform, right? Which is my gray dress shirt with a Nineteen 61 logo on it. And when I get here I change into my chef coat, and when I leave I change back into my dress shirt. And I wear the gray pants. I’m the chef and owner, so I wear nice shoes that I can also wear in the kitchen. It’s part of the decor, you know; my guys dress up real nice.
How did you prepare for what you do? I started in Miami. My mentor was giving me some recipes and ideas. I’d call my friends over and say, “Why don’t you guys come over? We’ll have some barbecue and recipes I just learned.” And that’s how it all started. The burger patty I make for this restaurant is the same one I used to make 20 years ago for my friends.
What are some of the restaurant jobs you’ve had and what did you learn? The first job was the Denver Press Club; it was the first time I learned about myself and how much I didn’t know. I remember staying up all night to learn QuickBooks and how to run a payroll … At La Dolce Vita in Castle Pines, I learned a lot about food profiles; the owner taught me a lot about food and passion and doing things right … I was sous chef at Cafe Juju. I learned a lot about technique. I learned a lot about product and taking care of your proteins, using your knife skills … Then I got the job a Maggiano’s. That’s where I learned how to be organized. I learned a lot about time management and people skills needed to be a great manager and a great chef. I was with them for five years, then I worked at San Jose Country Club (in Jacksonville.) Now I was learning more about my style. I was using techniques from my Italian restaurant and my French restaurant and put it all together … When I moved here to the Yacht Club I started to finalize my cooking style, what I really wanted to do with myself. I’ve embraced this community; from day one, my wife and I knew we wanted to be Lakelanders.
What book, TV show, movie or music has captured your imagination lately? I like watching “Chef’s Table” on Netflix. I’m reading Dan Barber’s book, “The Third Plate.” I like reading inspirational books about chefs and cooking, listening to the old-school chefs. I always tell my guys if they manage they should read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It became invaluable to my management style.
What’s your favorite leisure activity? I like to spend time with my son. We go hiking and camping a lot. We like to get away to the Silver Springs area.
Is there something you’re working on that makes Lakeland a more livable community? This restaurant. There’s a reason I built it this way. I had a lot of kickback that Lakeland wouldn’t support it, but why are people driving away from this great community (to seek fine dining in Tampa and Orlando)? I wanted to provide something special.
What about Lakeland makes you excited? The sense of community. The fact that there’s so much to do with my family. There’s great parks. I like to be outdoors because I’m stuck inside all day. I like having great parks where me and my son can play. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
What about Lakeland has you worried? Becoming too big. I wouldn’t want to see Lakeland lose that sense of family. It’s that sense of community that helped me open the restaurant.