Former-Schwa chef de cuisine Brian Fisher never thought he'd be in charge of food at a nostalgic pop-up celebrating a 1990s television show. After all, Schwa's a Michelin-starred restaurant. But here he is, helming the kitchen in Wicker Park for the "Saved By The Bell" diner pop-up that will launch on June 1 inside the former Geek Bar space.
"I wouldn't say it's kitsch, but it's fun, it's enjoyable," Fisher said. "The environment is going to be amazing, food is only one aspect of the whole thing."
Fisher said he isn't sure how his name surfaced as a candidate for chef at Saved By The Max, but he's happy that he's there. He feels other chefs and former colleagues will stay excited for him as he tackles this unique opportunity. His team isn't ready to share full details of their menu, although the pop-up parodies the 90s NBC television show and many dishes carry puns for names and TV references. But it's Fisher's job to ensure the diner food he serves isn't a joke, and he's going for approachable and non-pretentious. They'll be mindful of sustainability and use seasonal ingredients when possible, Fisher said.
"It's challenging, you're in a different space, you're in an unfamiliar environment —it's a true test of what you can do as an individual," Fisher added when describing pop-ups. "And you can see how much you can learn on the fly."
The pop-up, originally scheduled for just one month, will now stretch through August. Dinner reservations are almost fully booked, but they'll save room for walk-ups. Weekend brunch and late-night seating are exclusively walk-ups. The Max will also host ticketed events, such as concerts. Fisher isn't sure, food-wise, of the plans for those events.
Since leaving Schwa in December, Fisher has worked toward opening his own restaurant. He doesn't want to talk about that right now, but over the last few months he's accrued experience via throwing other pop-ups, hoping to be better prepared when he eventually opens his own dining room.
"I couldn't commit to anything that went over a certain amount of time, but this worked out perfectly for me," Fisher said.
When Fisher reminisces about "Saved By The Bell" one memory immediately comes to mind: Kelly Kapowski. Fisher isn't sure if he will ever meet actress Tiffani Amber Thiessen, but "that would be amazing."