This powerhouse business duo has created a booming waterfront restaurant that's a favorite for locals and visitors alike.
Known as one of the Gulf Coast’s most popular beach getaways, Orange Beach is lined with beautiful marinas and miles of coastal paradise. Naturally soaking up the beauty of its surroundings, Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina houses two completely different experiences under one roof—upscale and casual family dining—yet both still exude a very authentic vibe. We sat down with the duo to discuss everything from running two restaurants under one roof to their best childhood memories of cooking.
How did you come up with the concept of doing two different restaurants in one building?
Johnny Fisher: The original name for the restaurant was going to be Marina House, because we wanted it to feel like a house, in that you walk into this house and you can go upstairs into the more formal, fancier part, or you can come downstairs to the real casual kitchen with screen doors and kids running in and out in wet bathing suits. [They] relate really well, kind of like brother and sister—and I’m not sure which one’s the brother and which one’s the sister [laughs].
What inspired you to open a restaurant on the water?
JF: Orange Beach is such an incredible place. [Chef Bill] and I both noticed a market that was not being served, and we sort of have a little niche for the style of food that we’re doing and the type of experience that we provide, and its just nice being in such a scenic area. Orange Beach marina in particular is one of the most incredible marinas in the country—it's gorgeous—and we’re right in the middle of that.
Do you fish at all?
JF: Not enough.
Chef Bill: Yeah, not enough [laughs].
JF: We’re like the plumber with the leaky faucet. We should be fishing more—
CB: [Laughs] We try.
So how do you manage running two kitchens?
CB: I run around a lot. It’s something I can’t do without my guys. I’ve got two managers that help me with the kitchen up[stairs] and two down[stairs]. At least it’s one building. If it [were] two restaurants that I had to drive in between it would be a lot harder.
You’ve got to have something wrong with you to enjoy that organized chaos of restaurants and kitchens. I love it. When it’s the busiest and craziest, I’m the happiest.
What is the first thing you remember cooking as a child?
CB: I remember helping my mom with Thanksgiving. I don’t even think I was cooking then, I think it was just helping her bring stuff to the table. I remember running food and carrying a platter out to the big table for family for Thanksgiving. That’s probably the first real food experience I ever remember. Seeing everybody happy and smiling—that was a big part of it.
At what moment did you realize you needed to become a chef?
CB: The first kitchen I worked in, I needed to leave that kitchen. I needed to get under a different chef, I needed to learn, because I didn’t feel like I was learning. I just hit the streets and started knocking on restaurant doors and trying to get a job. I knocked on Emeril [Lagasse]’s door, and they hired me. They were like ‘you’ve got to forget what you learned and start over,’ and we started from the basics. I worked every kitchen, every station; I did all the butchering. They allowed me to bring stuff in and learn how to cook it. That was my schooling.
JF: Yeah, it’s that Emeril.
Chef Bill, you got married a few weeks ago. What's your favorite thing to cook for your wife?
CB: She loves tacos, so I cook a lot of tacos for her. Enchiladas are her favorite probably. I cook chicken enchiladas for her all the time. I don’t know. She just likes when I’m home cooking for her. She likes to come in there to be my little prep cook. She’ll help out.
Okay, I just have a few rapid fire questions. Are y’all ready?
JF: Bring it.
CB: I’m going to try.
Salt or sugar on your grits?
CB: Salt. With cheese.
JF: I have to admit, I’ve never had sugar on my grits.
CB: You put sugar and cinnamon on your oatmeal, that’s not grits. That’s blasphemy.
JF: It ain’t happening.
If you could be any type of seafood, what would you be?
CB: I would be an octopus because I wish I had more arms to do more stuff. If I had eight arms, I wouldn’t have as many cooks [laughs].
JF: I’d be a blue marlin.