At Home With The Fleischfressers
Not just Chilean for amorous
It’s well-known even among casual foodies in the metro area that Kurt Fleischfresser stands as a founding father of cuisine in this city. A 30- year veteran of the kitchen, Chef Fleischfresser honed his craft under well-known chefs in Chicago, Dallas and Phoenix before returning to his native Oklahoma to set up shop at the Coach House. Lesser known, perhaps, is that Fleischfresser is a levelheaded family man, storyteller, handyman and gracious host at heart. He and his wife, Jayne, have raised two children—as well as the bar on hospitality—during their tenure in Oklahoma. We had the pleasure of catching up with Kurt and Jayne along with their kids, Allie, Kyle and Kyle’s wife, Megan, plus Riley the blind pup and Sissy the wonder dog at the Fleischfressers’ new digs.
We were greeted by the intoxicating scent of pork shoulder roasting away in the oven and Allie and Megan popping a bottle of bubbly to get things started. Outside on the patio, Kurt had plopped a whole pumpkin on an open grill (a beast of a grill purchased at a garage sale years ago), turning the squash every so often to result in a great char.
After living east of the metro as the kids grew up (both Kyle and Allie graduated from Dale Public Schools before heading off to college), Kurt and Jayne began designing and building a house with meaning in every square inch on a plot of wooded acreage in Northeast Oklahoma City. A fan of pieces with a story, many elements of the home came from Architectural Antiques, including the bar rail, stained glass window and marble tile in the dining room. The Fleischfressers are a family of many talents and have worked on many of their home projects themselves. Kurt and Jayne moved in this past year and are finishing projects as time allows.
For this busy family, when it comes to holidays, flexibility is key. For large gatherings they keep things traditional in the kitchen and gather either at home or in one of the family’s restaurants. The real fun begins though, when it’s just the kids and a few close friends at home—that’s when things get experimental. Kurt said, “There’s usually one or two people cooking, with a whole row of people sitting at the bar, and we’re just jaw-jacking, cooking and having a great time.”
The table was set in the casual style that the family prefers. No multiple utensils and courses, just easy family-style dining, where the food and the conversation can shine. As she tosses roasted Brussels sprouts to the dogs, hitting poor blind Riley on the noggin, Allie shared, “we’re just an open, loving family really, not highbrow at all, very accepting.”
Fleischfresser developed the method for preparing the pumpkin for his Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce out of desperation: “I had to clean a bunch of squash really quickly to make gnocchi and you know they’re so hard to peel raw, I thought, I’ll just char it and scrape it, and man, it just tasted so much better and it looked better, the texture was great. Then, the last time I was in Stuttgart, Germany, I had to come up with a dessert recipe on the fly and incorporated the pumpkin into a bread pudding.” He prefers sugar pie pumpkins but unable to put his hands on one on the day of our interview, threw a small baby bear pumpkin on the grill (IT WAS DELICIOUS).
As Kurt piles the bread pudding into their individual ramekins until they’re overflowing he says with pride, “See? I made the perfect amount.” Allie retorts with a “great job, dad!”
While Kurt may be the best-known chef in the family, everyone pitches in to help and can certainly hold their own in the kitchen. Matriarch Jayne is the organizer and manager, keeping things on track and stepping into any role necessary to keep the family and the restaurants going. (Basically doing what all moms do and doing it very well.) Son Kyle is an award-winning mixologist and currently serves as Beverage Manager at the Coach House while also doing drop-in gigs around town and consulting on bar menus for events and restaurateurs. Lucky for Kyle, his wife Megan Naifeh Fleischfresser has a finger on the pulse of the liquor world too as she represents the 4th generation of Naifehs in the liquor wholesale business. Daughter Allie serves as the Event Coordinator at Will Rogers Theatre and The Tasting Room, both part of Western Concepts, the family’s restaurant group.
As we sat down to dinner the topic of the family name came up and everyone had a laugh. The literal German translation is, “flesh ripper.” Apparently the term has gained a slang usage in Chile, where Kurt traveled in 2006 as co-host of a food and wine tour alongside famed restaurateur Michel Buthion, meaning roughly something about being uncontrollably amorous. (Something off-color enough to send the young lady helping in the kitchen out of the room with a beet red face when Kurt mentioned it to her in his best Spanish and German at the urging of his friend and travel companion, Fritz, who found the whole scene hilarious.) Allie shared a similar story of being asked to show her driver’s license to a kitchen full of German cooks at Epcot who got a great laugh out of a tiny blond girl with a menacing name.
As Kurt finished up the Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Kyle poured up his hard mulled cider that had steeped below a simmer on the stove for half an hour or so to let the flavors mature. Instead of using a pantry full of ingredients, Kyle simplified the recipe (while supporting a local company) by using Strong Tonic, a locally made mixer. Served in ceramic mugs with a ring of apple floating on top, the warming beverage was perfect on the patio on a chilly fall evening.
Finally Kurt joined the family on the patio to enjoy the cocktail and his Pumpkin Bread Pudding. Even after a full meal, every last morsel of dessert was consumed. This is a family that knows something about good food and good company.