Markus Glocker has hospitality in his blood. Born in Austria, he grew up working in the family hotels, where his appreciation for the culinary arts became a passion.
After culinary school, Markus Glocker joined Munich’s renowned Restaurant Vier Jahreszeiten. Over several years he excelled in top kitchens all over the world, notably Restaurant Eckart Witzigmann in Berlin, Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, Restaurant Steirereck Vienna, and Gordon Ramsay in London and New York (which received two Michelin stars during his tenure). Glocker’s talent finds full expression at Bâtard, the Tribeca restaurant he opened with restaurateur Drew Nieporent (Nobu, Tribeca Grill) and managing partner John Winterman (Daniel, Gary Danko). Total Food Service sat down with Glocker to discuss his inspirations and aspirations.
Can you share with us your history in the food service industry?
I grew up in Austria and my family had a hotel so from a very young age I saw what’s going on in there and started helping out. I helped out there over the summer and any other holiday I was off from school. I was mainly doing the front of house at that point, and then saw a little bit of the kitchen, and by the time I was 15 I had made the decision that is what I wanted to do in my future.
What was your main influence to start cooking?
I would definitely say it was my family. My mom was a professional cook before she even met my dad. The way I grew up I was just thankful that we had a freshly cooked meal twice a day, every day. I grew up in a small village in Austria. There was a garden with everything so we always got fresh food, which is, when I look back now, it’s something out of the ordinary. Not everybody has access to fresh food. So it was very special and that was sort of the training with flavors. I think I got in at a quite early stage. When I was working at the hotel I learned a lot. I then wanted to see more and more and more. That was my influence from a young age. Obviously, later on, chefs lent me influences in terms of more upscale food and that sort of hospitality.
What is your philosophy when cooking?
If you were to ask me like ten years ago, I would have said something completely different. I would probably have said you have to work 18 hours a day and put as many things on the plate as possible to show how much technique and how good you are. Now for me it’s all about the confidence in the kitchen and for me that is one of the biggest things. It’s not about how much different things you can do with an ingredient, it’s about you doing the best you can get out of the ingredients without manipulating it too much. That’s sort of my philosophy right now.
What is your process for menu creation?
Every day I talk about new dishes, every day I absolutely add one or two new ingredients. Even during the prep time in the kitchen we are talking about it. Then I have sort of a grand idea and say that next week on the menu we are going to have celery root. I get to think about it and then we put it together as a team effort. I’m going to have my signature on there to show our own unique style of doing things. But in all honesty, you would be very surprised to see how many great ideas we have and how many bad ideas.
What was it like working for Gordon Ramsey?
Gordon was all about the food, he believed that simply this is what we do, we’re going to make it consistent and we’re going to make it perfect every day. It’s going to be the hardest thing in the world to pull it off every day, but this is what we do. There was really no creative influence from the guys at that point. What we were going to do was all dictated. I don’t know if you heard about this hotel, Claridges Hotel in London, this was my first job. I had a great time because I was in it for that special effect too. We were working a lot of hours. I told myself that it is going to be hard and that it shouldn’t be easy. Everybody went there because they wanted to see if they could make it through. I worked there in 2002-2003 when he had just gotten his third star. It was a great time to work for him and we learned a tremendous amount, then I saw the company growing and growing and growing. I then went to London which was very interesting for me as well to see and was a learning experience as well. Gordon is a different personality and is now a TV personality but what I always admired about this guy was he’s a seriously really good cook, he really knows how to cook. If you want to tease him and say like you’re on TV now I guarantee you he’s going to come in the kitchen and throw down. He’s is absolutely one of the best cooks I have seen.
How did the deal for Bâtard come together?
John Winterman and I have been friends a long time, he was at Daniel for I believe around ten years and I was at that six-year point at London. I worked all my life pretty much in Michelin Stars and I was sort of tired of what you have to do to be in that field. I felt we could do the same food and we can have fun, and have the great same wine list and not take ourselves that extremely serious. So I wrote a business plan with John Winterman and at that time was looking at different spaces. It’s always crazy in New York so finding a space was hard at the time. And obviously, it was our first restaurant so the risk was very high. I’d say, Drew, me, and John clicked right away. I had the idea in my pocket, we all knew the drill and the drill was exactly what I wanted to do. It was a pretty quick deal and in a couple weeks we built out space, did it more casual, fixed the kitchen and that was it!
What has the response been like for Bâtard?
In the culinary world, there are many new things out there, things become new again and vice versa. Not many restaurants cook this type of food this type of way. It’s a big awakening again for French cuisine and that’s my opinion, my personal opinion. There is a reason why the French cuisine always survives, and there’s always something new about it. Luckily we have chefs now, especially a lot of chefs in New York like Daniel Rose, for example, up in Le Coucou. It has been the biggest hit for a long time, because he does great sourcing of ingredients, and uses French techniques. Plus it is honest food and it’s made correctly, and that’s what people are looking for again. I think since I’m not going to put myself in front and explain what this is on the table and tell them all about why and how and etc., etc., which we get. Walk off, if you have any questions about it, you will look up and we can explain it. But we are not going to put ourselves in front of the food or the drinks, that’s sort of the concept behind this because it’s about you having a great time, it’s not about me.
To learn more about Markus Glocker and Bâtard, visit their website.