In My Kitchen: Max MacKissock, Executive Chef, The Squeaky Bean

November 2010

When Max MacKissock was 14, he covered a restaurant shift for a friend, and that fateful day led him down the road to cooking professionally. His first job in his home state of New York was cooking at Figliomenis—a family-run Italian-American restaurant—where he eventually became sous chef. Craving formal training, MacKissock enrolled in the culinary program at Schenectady County Community College and later spent a year in Italy. Shortly after returning to the States, MacKissock moved to Colorado to become head chef at Keystone’s now-closed Great Northern Tavern. Four years later, he relocated to Denver to take the executive chef position at Vita. There, he caught the attention of local diners, but it was MacKissock’s move to the Squeaky Bean in May 2009 that has cemented his reputation as a chef to watch.

Know Your Oil “The two main characteristics of olive oil are grassy or fruity,” MacKissock says. “And I like the fruity end.” His olive oil of choice—a fruity Dauro—is a Spanish variety he keeps close by.

Home Grown Just outside the kitchen window are two 4-by-6 beds (covered since the end of September to shield them from the cold) with arugula, basil, parsley, and chervil that keep through mid-November.

Monkeying Around “I have no idea when, where, or how I got it,” MacKissock says of this silly vegetable peeler. “But I use it a lot and I love it.”

Quick Tip “I always have a variety of salts and olive oil on hand so I can grab something ordinary and make it taste amazing.”

Gather 'Round MacKissock and girlfriend Jennifer Jasinski (chef and co-owner of Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, and Euclid Hall) open their Sunnyside home to friends and coworkers for Thanksgiving each year. It’s the perfect opportunity to put the couple's holiday trinkets and Jasinski's family-heirloom china and stemware to good use.

The Matchmaker MacKissock and Jasinski love this photo of the Rioja chefs because Merlan Verrier (over Jasinski's left shoulder) is responsible for introducing the happy couple.

Rustic RecipesWith shelves and shelves of cookbooks to choose from at home—the majority are actually at the couple’s restaurants—a wandering hand has the tendency to pick out The Splendid Table, a staple in the heartland of Italy from Emilia-Romagna. “I don’t really use it for recipes, but more to get inspiration and look at pictures to spark my mind,” MacKissock says. He purchased the now rough-around-the-edges book more than 10 years ago while he lived in New York.

Cauliflower and Apple Soup 
(serves 12)
MacKissock says this soup can be halved, but keep the full tablespoon of curry powder.

  • 1 sweet yellow onion
  • 8 ounces butter
  • 3 heads cauliflower
  • 4 sweet apples, diced (MacKissock likes Fuji)
  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • Cut the onion into a small dice and sauté in butter, being careful not to brown. Take any green off the cauliflower and cut into uniform pieces. Once the onions have softened (about 20 minutes), add the cauliflower and apples and cook for another 15 minutes. Cover vegetable-apple mixture with milk, add the seasonings, and simmer for about one hour. Adjust the seasonings and purée with a blender until smooth.