‘Waukesha has become a wedding destination’
Chef Jack talks awards, future plans and The Clarke Hotel

By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff

January 24, 2013

Chef Jack Fisher stands with one of his company’s most popular dinner entrees, Chicken Welllington.

Charles Auer/Freeman Staff 

WAUKESHA - Chef Jack Fisher opened his catering business on South Street 25 years ago because rent was cheap and he was tired of working from his basement. Now, in the midst of putting on 170 weddings per year at the Rotunda and 35 other locations across southeastern Wisconsin, Fisher is barely in the office at all.

“I never thought Waukesha would turn into what it has,” Fisher said. “Look at Waukesha through the eyes of a wedding party - brides walking on cobblestone, the Riverwalk on a summer day - we’ve got a gold mine here.”

What’s more, Fisher said, with each wedding at the Rotunda bringing 8,000 people to the city for an entire weekend, he hopes his business is stimulating the entire downtown economy.

“The wedding party will take over this little town, eating a fish fry at Dady-Oh’s parking 100 cars in the ramp,” Fisher said. “They say ‘we came to Waukesha and we feel like really special people because it’s not too big and it’s not too small.’”

Although he’s worked in the catering business for decades, putting on events like a state dinner for former President Bill Clinton and multiple 10,000-person QuadGraphics holiday parties, being a full-service wedding spot is now Fisher’s bread and butter. In addition to catering, he and his 60 employees offer planning services, rentals and more.

Chef Jack Fisher stands in the tasting room of Chef Jack’s Catering on Wednesday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Thirty years ago when Fisher was the head chef at Merrill Hill’s Country Club, he created the meal for Lisa and Todd Buchholtz’s wedding. This past summer, Chef Jack’s catering handled wedding festivities for the couple’s daughter Nicole.

“Our daughter fell in love with downtown Waukesha and the (Rotunda), because it was so different from what everyone else does,” Lisa Buchholtz said. “He went above and beyond our expectations and we were so happy.”

In the past two years, Fisher’s business has picked up awards from Wedding Wire, the Knot, WISN’s A-List and more.

“Things are really popping in the wedding world for us,” Fisher said. “In the old days, people found out about these things by word of mouth, but now (using the Internet and social media), brides are talking to each other, and Waukesha has become a wedding destination.”

Fisher said he enjoys a wonderful partnership with Berg Management and the Rotunda, as well as The Clarke Hotel which recently had foreclosure action filed against it.

Souvenirs of Chef Jack’s catering, a 1996 state dinner with then-President Bill Clinton and then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Milwaukee are seen Wednesday at Chef Jack’s Catering.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Even with politicians pointing fingers and trying to place blame regarding the city’s $1.5-million investment in the former flophouse-turned-hotel, Fisher said it’s done wonders for his business and downtown as a whole. He also thinks it can and should be saved.

“When a recipe is half-right, you don’t throw the whole pot out,” Fisher said. “The right part of the recipe was the hotel. We would fill every room. The downtown needs a hotel.”

This time of year, Fisher and his team are buckling down to help the newly engaged Christmas and New Year’s brides-to-be plan their special day, and he couldn’t be happier.

“It’s the one day of your life,” Fisher said. “You’re going to do it right.”

Email: spryor@conleynet.com