25 years after establishing Fischer’s of Baslow, chef Max Fischer will be given an honorary doctorate by the Sheffield Hallam University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Philip Jones on Friday 22 November. Max will be joined by a number of other inspiring figures including Olympic silver medallist Leon Taylor, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon and Hathersage-based designer Corin Mellor, at graduation ceremonies held at Sheffield City Hall next month.
Fischer’s of Baslow combines classic favourites with more modern combinations and relies heavily on British seasonal produce. Awards include a Michelin Star in 1994, and a ranking of 29th out of 100 in the Sunday Times Food List 2013.
Max was born in North West Germany on 31st August 1951. He was brought up in a rural part of West Germany, very close to the river Elbe which at that time divided East and West Germany. His father was a painter and decorator and his mother a housewife. In the rural community people were still very self sufficient, growing their own produce and keeping a small amount of livestock.
At age 16 Max left school and took an apprenticeship to be a chef in his home town of Luneburg. In 1970 he moved to the famous Erbprinz hotel in Germany’s Black Forest, at that time a flagship amongst the world’s gastronomic hotels. This is where his standards for excellence developed. Working in the larder there he learned the fundamentals of food preparation and went on to win a gold medal for Larder work in the Salon Culinaire competition.
The Erbprinz had contacts in Paris and two years later he moved to Paris to broaden his experience in the family-owned Restaurant Nicholas. Nicholas held a coveted Michelin Star and set the standards to which Max has since aspired.
In 1975 Max moved again to take a position as Demi Chef at the well known Bell Inn at Aston Clinton (again a Michelin Star establishment) and one of the first Relais Chateau members. It was at the Bell Inn that Max met Susan, his wife. In the Summer of 1976 he made his next move, to Stockholm, Sweden. It was here that he had his first opportunity to cook for royalty. Time in Sweden also presented opportunities for culinary exchange visits, including one at the very famous “Maison de la Bouche” in Brussels.
In 1977 Max returned to his native Germany as Head Chef at the Schlosshotel Kronberg. This hotel was a historic castle built by Dowager Empress Victoria, widow of Emperor Friedrich III. The descendants of Victoria still lived on the estate but the hotel was run as a trust. Here Max cooked for royalty, politicians and celebrities on a daily basis. Dinners, working lunches and grand banquets for the likes of Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher, Nixon and Rockerfeller were regular events.
Max had always coveted the idea of eventually owning his own restaurant. In 1980, at the age of 29, he and Susan returned to England where they took over a small café in Bakewell, Derbyshire. They renamed the premises “Fischer’s”, and started by serving simple lunches and cream teas. They gradually introduced a new style of cooking. The impact of this change was soon recognised in the region and very soon by the most critical of food critics and national food guides.
In 1989 “Fischer’s” moved to the beautiful Baslow Hall, previously a family home which they converted to Country House Restaurant with Rooms. In 1994 (and every year since) they earned their first Michelin Star.
In recent years Max has stepped aside from the kitchen which is now run by Head Chef Rupert Rowley and his team. Max continues on an advisory basis whilst pursuing his interest in gardening, particularly growing produce for use in the restaurant. Max says, “I am absolutely thrilled to be awarded an honorary doctorate by Sheffield Hallam University, in recognition of my career in food. Cooking has always been my passion and immensely rewarding in itself, but nevertheless it feels very nice to be commended with such a prestigious qualification.” Watch the video of Max at the award ceremony here.