Borge Zierke, 43, North Liberty
Chef/owner @ The Fireside
Why did you want to become a chef?
I needed something to do after I got out of the military and the culinary arts program at Des Moines Area Community College intrigued me. Once I got in, I found it was something I really liked to do.
Where did you go from there?
While I was in school at DMACC, I worked at the Greenbriar in Johnson. Then I moved to Iowa City, and worked at a lot of unique restaurants that are no longer in business, and at the State Room at the UI. I went on to Southeast Missouri State University and the Oxford University Club in Oxford, Mississippi – that’s where I learned the ins and outs of Southern cuisine. From there, I took a job at Mason’s Restaurant in eastern Maryland. My wife had an opportunity to come back to Iowa to run a non-profit organization, and after eating at the Fireside Grill in Kalona and talking to the owner, I was hired as a consultant chef, and three weeks later, the owners offered to sell me the restaurant.
I heard a rumor that you cooked for the cast and crew of “Wedding Crashers” and “Failure to Launch” while you were in Maryland. What types of dishes did you prepare for them?
We served them lunch and dinner. They pretty much ordered off the menu. I can tell you that Owen Wilson likes his rare tuna tartar and well-done burgers. I did also have opportunity to cook for Donald Rumsfeld, and every time he came in he had foes GRAS, and one time he had a double portion.
Back to Fireside: You recently relocated the restaurant from Kalona to North Liberty. Did you keep the same menu?
We kept pretty much the same lunch menu and added an online to-go lunch menu. You order online, you pay online, and we’ll give you a pickup time and the food is ready for you. All the menu items are designed to travel well and/or reheat well. The dinner menu, we significantly increased the level and the quality, because we knew that we had the clientele here to be able to offer more higher-end steaks and entrees.
What’s the most popular dish at Fireside?
At lunch, the gourmet burgers and The Beast, a prime rib panini with Brie or blue cheese, caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms. At night, I would say one of our more popular dishes, other than prime rib, would be the Shrimp Rachel. It’s sauteed shrimp and smoked sausage on bucatini pasta, and we use a curried carrot bisque as a sauce base.
After having worked in so many restaurants, what’s the best thing about owning your own?
It’s bittersweet. It’s a lot of work, a lot of hours, a lot of sacrifice, but there’s so much more freedom in your decision making and freedom in your menu. This menu is definitely a conglomeration of my past.
Anne Kapler lives in Cedar Rapids, works in Iowa City, and shamelessly plans all her road trips around dining and food shopping. Visit her blog at www.pearvana.com
Details: The Fireside, 420 Community Dr., North Liberty; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, dinner: 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday to Saturday and breakfast and lunch: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday; call (319) 626-3456 and online at www.firesidenorthliberty.com