After getting her start in Las Vegas and working under notable Cincinnati chefs and restaurateurs, Sydney Fisher took the helm as executive chef at new bar and restaurant Copper & Flame in early October. We caught up with her to chat about her culinary background, the restaurant’s menu, and the importance of mentorship in the industry.
What drew you to a culinary career?
I grew up in Vegas with a single mother. She worked a lot and spent most of her time working, so I was with my grandpa a lot, and he taught me how to cook from scratch. [From an] Italian background, he taught me everything he knew culinary-wise. I remember smelling the sauce in the kitchen, perfuming the entire house. It was really nostalgic for me. [After high school,] I went into a culinary program, Nevada Partners in Vegas, and that’s what really set me off. I started an internship in Vegas and was working for Springs Preserve, and that’s when I really started to flourish. Two months in I was at the Cosmopolitan opening at Estiatorio Milos, a Greek restaurant. I ended up finding a partner and came out to Brookville, Indiana, and that’s where I set up shop and was there for a while.
What brought you to Cincinnati?
I started working for Jose Salazar. I spent about three years with him and ended up getting a sous chef position [at Mita’s] under Cameron Bloomer for a while. That’s where I got a lot of Latin American and South American cuisine under my belt—really learned it, honed it, and loved it. Soon after that I became chef de cuisine at Goose & Elder. I couldn’t have done it without [Jose] and Cameron as mentors, as well as Steven Shockley and Derek dos Anjos [former chef de cuisine and owner, respectively,] of Anchor OTR.
What did you learn from Chef Salazar’s example that will help guide your leadership at Copper & Flame?
Keeping a mental state of calm. No matter what situation you’re under or what kind of path or adversities you’re under, remain calm, and you can actually have a clear mind. You don’t realize how clouded your judgment gets when you’re overwhelmed in the kitchen.
What’s on the menu at Copper & Flame?
Our focus is on street food, so that’s our premise, with a Southeast Asian and South American twist. Everything we do we’re really trying to harbor the energy of both cuisines and make something amazing with complex elements of sweet, savory, and salty. For example, we’re doing a duck confit tostada with a green lentil puree on the bottom, and I love to be able to combine so many different aspects to create something and make it work.
Which dish are you most excited for people to try?
The carnitas wonton nachos, [with a mix of] wonton and corn chips and Urban Stead cheese for the queso blanco. I’m doing a dried chipotle barbecue sauce with plum, and it’s sweet with an acidity, slightly Carolina, but always going back to [Asian and] South American flavors.
You were selected by the LEE Initiative as one of five up-and-coming chefs, and you participated as a mentor in its Women Chefs program. How important is it that women have these types of resources and support systems?
It’s vital to not only female success but male success in the kitchen, too. To see that there is equality, and you should have camaraderie for anything, not [limited to] gender. It’s the skill and the passion [that matter most]. Meeting [the mentees and other mentors] was so amazing, [experiencing] the vibe of people who understand and have likeminded intuition. When we all had dinner with the mentees, we all bounced ideas off of each other. In the kitchen, it was a collaborative experience, a breath of fresh air. Coming up in February, [our group of mentors and mentees] will be [planning a] four-course meal at the James Beard House [for later in the year].
Copper & Flame, 1115 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine