Speak to Mike Fisher about his hometown of Hollister, and watch him light up like a firefly.
He’ll take particular pleasure in talking about how the city inspires his business, Fisher’s Restaurant and Catering in Hollister.
“To drive down 156 and see just rows of crops—that just speaks to me,” he says.
Where other Hollister natives may grumble about the town’s growth—whether it be too small or getting too big—Fisher likes to focus on the positive.
“Yeah, we have our problems, but I get sick of hearing that,” he says about the town in which he was born and raised.
“I like to show the good.”
Fisher has done just that since opening the doors of Fisher’s Restaurant in downtown Hollister nearly two years ago. His catering business has been part of the community since 2014.
Now at only 32 years old, the Hollister native is literally reaping the rewards:
Fisher has been named the Rising Star Entrepreneur of 2018 by San Benito County (SBC) Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.
“I am humbled and grateful,” Fisher says of the award.
The SBC Chamber of Commerce chooses the recipients of the business and entrepreneur awards based exhibiting excellence in their business, customer service, and community involvement. The SBC Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors make selections from nominations that were submitted by the community.
Mike Fisher says his pathway to success began with his first job at the age of 15.
The son of Hollister residents John and Ellen Fisher was looking for a way tame his wild nature.
“I had a lot of energy and didn’t have anything to do other than get in trouble,” he says.
While applying at local stores in town, he took up a suggestion to apply at The Inn at Tres Pinos—a decision that would catapult his career path.
He started out as a busboy and dishwasher, but noticed he immediately needed to acquire a good work ethic.
“I think the owner, Mike Howard, was gonna fire me,” he recalls. “But then something spoke to me one day; one day I got it.”
He fell in love with the fast-pace, hustle and bustle of entertaining people, and began asking to work in the kitchen for free to gain experience.
“Mike showed me how to do the daily books, paperwork, showing profitability or not; I started learning a lot more about food,” Fisher says.
By the time he was 18 years old, he was getting paid to help with catering events in the kitchen and “rubbing shoulders with some cool people,” Fisher says.
“So that’s when I decided, ‘I’ve got to go,’” he says of his pursuit of culinary school.
At 19 years old, Fisher scoped out Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in Paris, France. And by the age of 20, he was overlooking the Seine and taking classes taught by some of the most prestigious chefs and professors in the world.
Once back in the United States, he had a newfound appreciation for food and wine.
Fisher worked with luxury hotels in Virginia and San Diego, and learned from world-class chefs including Cal Stamenov at the Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley, and Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniel in New York City.
After his time in New York, Fisher was ready to come back to his roots.
He decided to open a business in the least risky way—he started Fisher’s Catering.
It wasn’t just any catering company. The way Fisher grew up around food “meant a lot of gardening,” he says. In fact, many of his family members were farmers.
With Fisher’s love of fresh produce, gardening and having family ties to farming, he put his own spin on farm-to-table service, making many of his dishes garden-to-table. Gradually, he and his flavorful dishes developed a reputation.
With the help of Hollister native, Jenae Filice, who would assist him with catering events, the two were able to brainstorm the vision of his current restaurant.
“I thought, here’s somebody who sees what I see as far as the potential of what this can grow into,” he says of Felice. “Both of us kept our eyes out for brick and mortar.”
Since opening his doors in March 2016, Felice has been the serving manager for Fisher’s Restaurant.
“We both were born and raised here and love bringing our talents back to our hometown,” Felice says. “His concept is how I feel about food, community and family. It’s not just dinner but an experience where our customers are treated like family. It’s an honor working for a talented chef like Mike.”
Fisher credits Felice and his staff for supporting him in everything he does.
“It’s surprising to see people step up and evolve with me and take as much care as I do,” he says.
“Everybody brings a different skill to the table.”
Two of the traits that Fisher brings “to the table” are listening to his customers and bringing quality food.
For instance, the original name was Fisher’s Delicatessen.
Fisher’s original vision was to have a place where people could try different wines and be more of a deli—“where you’d pick up a sandwich or something like that to go,” he says.
But he found that people wanted to sit down, talk, and be served—like a restaurant.
“So six months later I pulled the sign down and scratched off Delicatessen,” he says.
And now, he says, it’s just Fisher’s.
“Fisher’s Restaurant and Catering is the company. We call this the restaurant.”
And with 80 percent of his menu fresh produce, and 100 percent of the produce coming from San Benito County, Fisher says he knows only one other restaurant in town can provide that kind of hometown quality.
“We don’t just buy a few vegetables and then call ourselves farm-to-table; the whole menu revolves around it,” he says.
Juli Vieira, President and CEO of SBC Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, has known Fisher his entire life.
“It is so wonderful to have a young person who was born and raised here come back after his training to open a businesses in his hometown,” Vieira says. “I recently called on short notice to ask if he would mind opening his restaurant at 8am in order for the Chamber to hold a community informational meeting. He and his staff were right on it. Mike is a rising star and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.”
Fisher credits not only his staff, but his parents’ driving him to succeed.
“My parents were probably the hardest on me, and criticized me the hardest, and probably made me think about every move that I made,” he says.
And being recently married in October 2017, Fisher says he’s lucky to have found someone who understands his job and hours.
“It’s really special to have somebody in your corner 24/7,” he says.
His wife, Katie, 30, is proud of Mike and his most recent honor.
“Mike has worked incredibly hard in his life in order to follow his dream of having his own restaurant,” she says. “I can think of no one more deserving for the Entrepreneur of the Year award and I am so immensely proud of him and what he has accomplished.”
Fisher also likes to reflect on how far he’s come. But he also attributes his success to the people of Hollister.
“People told me that [the restaurant] was going to fail, because Hollister would not accept a quality restaurant in the style that I was going,” he recalls. “Both me, and the people of Hollister, have proved all those people wrong. That has probably been the best feeling in the world.”
And to the naysayers who challenge Fisher’s perspective, he’d like them to step up to the challenge.
“If anything, I hope to inspire somebody to compete,” he says. “Bring it downtown and bring it to Hollister; let’s turn this little town into what we always wanted it. It’s time for people to get off their seats and do it.”
Fisher’s Restaurant is located at 650 San Benito Street in Hollister. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11am-2:30pm and 5-8pm. Visit fishershollister.com or call 831.313.1515 for more information on the Fisher’s Restaurant and Catering.