Cathy O’Clarke’s Irish Pub & Grille/Fat Pelican Pizza Deli
591 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island. Phone: 642-9709.
Hours: Open seven days. Irish Pub: Lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner 4 to 11 p.m.; Fat Pelican, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Began working at present restaurant?
The end of April 2009, about a month ago.
Who or what inspired you to become a chef/cook?
I became interested in food and cooking at a young age. In the early 1980s I used to go to the Kissimmee Public Library and check out Julia Child videos, and then ask my mom if I could help her in the kitchen using what I learned. My mom was very organized and she had all her recipes copied onto index cards. When I was old enough to cook on an electric range I would prepare dinner and time it so that it would be ready by the time my mom came home from work.
What was your first restaurant job?
Like many fledgling chefs I began my culinary career while still in high school — washing dishes at The Sweet Basil Restaurant in Kissimmee. During that time I would help out Joe, the Italian chef, on the line. He started sharing information about restaurant cooking basics — things like mother sauces, prepping vegetables and plate garnishes — and that encouraged me to start thinking about acquiring qualifications toward being a professional chef. After I graduated high school I went through a culinary apprenticeship at one of the theme parks. We would work a 40 hour-plus rotation in a different restaurant kitchen every three months. This enabled me to utilize what I learned and apply it to the next restaurant I was working in. During that relatively short, three year restaurant apprenticeship — cooking in several different restaurants — I not only gained a lot of experience I also expanded my culinary repertoire!
How long have you been cooking professionally?
Sixteen years all told including the several theme park restaurants I worked in.
Do food trends affect your cooking style?
What I feel about food trends or restaurant styles is that they’re a double-edged sword. You want to keep up but you don’t want it to stifle your creativity.
Are you planning changes to your menu for the summer season?
Well, the new Fat Pelican is part of our menu change for the summer season We have created a new attractively priced, family-friendly menu.
What is the most popular dish on your menu?
Right now the weather seems to be directing the food choices our guests are making in regard to what they want to eat. Pizza of course, and also our fresh sandwiches made to order, cold or hot, there’s no particular preference.
What is your favorite food? Why?
I love seafood, any kind. You could say it was because I was raised in central Florida. At best, you could only get flounder on Fridays.
Who would you like to cook a meal for? Why?
Probably my mom because when I get to visit her she likes to do the cooking, so if she comes to visit me I’m hoping to make her favorite grilled scallops with risotto.
What is your most essential cooking implement? Why?
My chef’s knife because that’s what I reach for most during the day.
What would you like to be doing if you weren’t a chef?
Most likely it would be teaching. My mom and sister were teachers so there’s a bit of that in me.
What annoys you most in the kitchen?
I’m very organized, so I’d say things not be put back where they’re supposed to be – that and unnecessary clatter.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
The adrenaline rush I get working in the kitchen when we’ve got a full house and I hear the sounds and the happy banter of people having a fun time and enjoying their meal. That, along with the ability to be creative, about sums it up!