John Fischer '81 Shares
Recipes for Culinary Career Success
by Linda Hou '13
While working as a bartender at Swarthmore's Phi Psi fraternity, John Fischer '81 never thought that, years later, those skills would help him discover his passion and career - a culinary life with an emphasis on wine and spirits. Now on the faculty at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Fischer recently returned to campus on an invitation from Career Services to share with students his thoughts and advice.
Fischer, who graduated as a psychology major, had originally planned to go into advertising. Yet when the company he was working for went bankrupt, he found a job as a bartender.
"My psychology degree prepared me well," he says. "After a few months, I realized that the restaurant business was a good fit for me, and I became especially interested in the wine side of the business."
Since then, Fischer has worked in all parts of the restaurant industry, both in front- and back-of-the-house roles, including in managerial positions at several New York City restaurants. A 1988 CIA graduate, Fischer completed his externship field experience at Le Bernardin. He later joined CIA's faculty as an associate professor in table service, where he serves as maître d' instructor in the institute's Ivy Award-winning Escoffier Restaurant. He credits what he calls his "Swarthmore DNA" as encouraging him to teach.
"I think that 'Swarthmore DNA' leads to a specific series of traits: inquisitiveness, self-discipline, and intellectual generosity leading the way and it has played a part in my entire career," Fischer says. "When I was still working in restaurants in New York, it pushed me to
learn more about wine, but also to find new ways to communicate this knowledge to guests. Swarthmore, especially from Allen Schneider, is where I acquired this, even if I didn't know it at the time."
Centennial Professor of Psychology Allen Schneider still teaches at the College and focuses on the physiological basis of learning and memory. At his talk, Fischer presented him with copies of his three books, At Your Service (2005), Bistros and Brasseries (2008), and Cheeses (2010).