Meet Greenwich’s MIX Creative Kitchen’s chef Fausto Mieres
Facing a wall of greens that makes one feel healthy just looking at them, chef Fausto Mieres of MIX Creative Kitchen drops some spinach into a silver bowl before turning back to the serving line to add shredded carrots, sliced peppers and cauliflower florets.
He ladles coconut curry sauce into a saute pan on the countertop range. As it roils, in go the veggies. A dozen or so turns with a wooden spoon and the mixture is poured into a bowl and finished off with seasonings, a scoop of basmati rice and a handful of shrimp. There’s no need to cook dinner tonight. Someone else has done it in minutes.
“Around here, people are always working and in a rush,” Mieres, 28, says. “They don’t want to wait for things. You spend eight, 10 hours working, you just want your food and you want to head out the door.”
Such a scene plays out often at this Greenwich restaurant, which also features from scratch grab-and-go items, such as salads, sides, drinks and dessert. Most meals are under $9. It opened in April, a project of Palm Foods, a Greenwich-based restaurant and food service firm led by Mieres and Rey Santos. MIX is a reflection of a changing culinary landscape that has seen the rise of fast-casual offerings and a customizable approach to fast food during the past 10 years.
It’s the environment that has formed as Mieres has evolved into his position. He is young enough to feel as if healthy fast casual always has been the norm. Yet, he is old enough to remember when fast food simply meant quick service and those with dietary restrictions steered clear. With his French Culinary Institute training, he takes an old-school approach to flavor, presentation and atmosphere. MIX Creative Kitchen does not have white linen table service, but there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy whatever is considered a leisurely meal these days.
“This is the new way people eat fast food,” he says. “Today, I feel the standards are a lot higher.”
All this was but an apple in some forecaster’s eye when Mieres started out in the business at 16. Growing up in an Italian family in Stamford, his mother and grandmother knew their way around a kitchen. So much so that “I never remember ordering out,” Mieres says, laughing.
The takeout giant, McDonald’s, however, was where he found work, as a manager for a Norwalk location. He made his way to Corbo’s Corner Deli in Greenwich, where he started out as a dishwasher. One day when the crew was a prep cook short, Mieres answered the call. “They said, ‘You have to jump on the line and help us out,’” he says, laughing. “I just got sucked in to it.
“I didn’t really become interested in it until it hit, basically from that moment when I was pulled from the dish-washing position,” Mieres says, adding he realized he had not been idly observing his mother and grandmother cook family meals. Tips on technique and prep came back to him. In 2008, after several years as a prep cook at the deli, he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute to learn classic French cooking. Several years later, he returned to study international cuisine.
“I already had a few years in the business, but they teach you the basics,” Mieres says. “I suggest that people go to culinary school because you see things differently. You have a higher standard for what a restaurant is, what food should taste like and what it should look like. They teach you many things beyond the food itself, such as costs, economics, technology and science.”
In 2014, after working at different Fairfield County restaurants, such as Oak + Almond and bartaco, Mieres opened Anthony’s Deli in his hometown of Stamford. He sold it after two years (it now houses Riko’s Pizza). It was at the deli that he first met Santos, who was a customer. After Mieres applied for the executive chef job at Palm Foods, he got a call from Santos, who remembered him. Mieres was soon on board.
The average age of an executive chef is about 10 years older than Mieres, but he is rather unassuming about his accomplishments. As part of the generation (the millennials) credited with largely influencing the fast-casual trend — favoring convenience, quality and affordability — he has that perspective, as well as an appreciation for more formal dining. Mieres and Santos are looking to develop new apps that will make ordering from the menu even more of a custom experience and to expand MIX Creative Kitchen into new markets.
There is a blackboard on one wall that lays out the restaurant’s commitment, which includes never to use refined sugars and corn syrup, preservatives, trans fat or GMOs in its dishes. It is what Mieres looks at when asked about MIX’s vision.
“We are creative and we always try to do things a little differently than anybody else,” he says. “You shouldn’t have to compromise flavor or quality just because food is healthy. We try to step it up with bold flavors. Our tagline is ‘We make healthy easy, so you don’t have to worry about it.’”
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