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On the line: Chef Frank Mercado



kc kratt

Most people don’t realize that chefs work in all kinds of businesses, and Buffalo’s Frank Mercado is a prime example. When he’s not busy reinventing the entire menu (he does it daily) for the executive crowd at M&T Bank, he’s pulling dinner shifts at Seabar and Torches because “It keeps things fresh,” he says. “There is always something to learn. At the end of the day, I walk away inspired.”

Mercado, who attended the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, has worked in Buffalo’s best restaurants—including Oliver’s, Tsunami, and Warren’s—over the course of nearly two decades. He primarily serves as a line cook, because “being head chef is great, but being a line cook provides instant gratification; it feeds the passion for cooking.” A recent competitor in the Nickel City Chef cooking series, Mercado exemplifies teamwork, consideration, and a sense of fairness, characteristics admired by those he works for and with.

Name: Frank Mercado
Age: 33
Restaurant: M&T Bank, Executive Dining Room
Years behind the stove: 17

 

What most guests don’t realize:
I am not just working on the food for your table. I have an entire restaurant to feed.

Favorite after-work beverage:
A pint of Flying Bison’s Rusty Chain (in a frosty mug, of course).

Best LP to cook by:
Gloria Estefan often does the conga in my head—who doesn’t want to conga?

Favorite preparation:
Duck confit; it works well in so many dishes.

Aspect of cooking I particularly dislike?
Dislike is too strong a word, but I tend to shy away from baking. The preciseness required hampers my ability to shoot from the hip or change direction mid-process.

I can cook anywhere as long as I have my…
Knife, or at least a sharp knife—and my Birkenstocks.

Food no chef should love but I do anyway:
Classic circus peanuts, you know, the orange ones.

Where I go to eat:
Seabar. The food never disappoints and the atmosphere is unique.

Restaurant I’m dying to try:
The French Laundry, or any one of Chicago’s extensive offerings, or Nobu … no, definitely The French Laundry. When I first opened The French Laundry Cookbook, it was like a sunbeam piercing a cloud.

What Buffalo’s food scene really needs:
Now that the need for Mexican food is being addressed [Editor’s Note: by Lloyd, the taco truck, and by Cantina Loco in Allentown], I think an Argentinean steakhouse would be great.

What next?
I really like where I am. Life is always throwing different things my way and I’ve always been very grateful for every opportunity given me. That said, ideally, I envision someday having a little place called the Have a Nice Day Café.      

 

 

 

Christa Glennie Seychew is Spree’s food editor.

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