I found myself sitting in infusions (for Lupus)…I had this time and I realized I wasn’t learning anything…it was pretty easy to go down the road of outdoor cooking and where that took me.

Richard Chrz

Baker, Griller, and Smoker of Meats, Fairchild Kitchen

Today we chatted with home baker, griller, and smoker of meats, Richard Chrz of Fairchild Kitchen. We dove into the beginnings of his love of smoking and baking, and learned about some of his favorite recipes.  We also delve into recent fundraisers done by Richard to raise some much needed funds.​

La Crosse Local is proud sponsor of the La Crosse Winter Roots Festival.

Balancing Act.
Richard Chrz 01:14
My first name is Richard, my last name is Chrz without a vowel, so it’s c-h-r-z. I’m 49 years old, I just turned a few days ago. And I’m originally from Austin, Minnesota but I am a transplant to La Crosse longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. So La Crosse is my home. As far as how did I get into cooking or baking or any of that stuff, so behind my head, you’ll see a headrest. I’m in a power wheelchair, lost use to my legs a little in 2018. I found myself sitting in infusions, four infusions a week every other week for over almost two and a half years. And I was sitting in there for five to six hours at a time. So it was kind of like a full time job just to sit there and get this medicine to help. But I was left with that time, right? At that point I’m no longer employed, I’ve got this time and I realized that I wasn’t learning anything and I needed to engage myself in something to keep this time. And honestly haven’t we all wished that we had a little bit of time to kind of reinvent and recreate, so I looked at it as an opportunity. And I love food so it was pretty easy to go down the idea of outdoor cooking and just see where it took me. You know it took me into bread, it’s taken me into lots of different things, but that’s how I got into it really was just I needed occupy time. I needed to learn something.

Brent Hanifl 02:39
So where did the idea for the Fairchild Kitchen like get its start? I mean that you kind of have a fan page, in some ways, it looks like you’re doing, you know, fundraisers on there. How did the idea for the Facebook Fan Page get started?

Richard Chrz 02:49
It’s kind of a joke. It’s also the gift of being married to a graphic artist. Lots of friends started joking with me that they wanted to come over to my kitchen to eat, or boy if they could hire me to cook for them. I live on Fairchild Street, so I just decided that one night I said you know what I’m going to call our patio Fairchild Kitchen. And my wife laughed at me and the next morning I woke up with this logo. It kind of spawned from that, that it was just a joke, but you know, it’s fun. I enjoy Fairchild Kitchen. Yes, there is a page for it on Facebook and it’s a way for people that are maybe wanting to even bake bread, but they’re having questions and they don’t know how. And they’re not even sure which Youtube site to trust within that method, is they can come onto my page and we can talk about my loaf, right? About why it comes out the way it does and maybe do a little help. I’ve got someone in England using my recipe right now. I’ve got someone on the East Coast that’s baking their very first two loaves tomorrow following my methods. So it kind of came into the idea of my friends want to learn recipes for say my chili or stuff like that. It turned out I’m not very good at doing a blog and then taking it over and promoting it to Facebook. And rather than filling up my whole Facebook page with just recipes, I decided to take this on here. So here’s where we can talk about that food and here’s where I give a tip about how I do. Or even a tool from an accessibility standpoint, I can give it a review for like if my hands can use this, can you imagine how your hands could use this. And so it kind of started off as just very basic. I just here’s my place to talk about food. I just enjoy so many aspects of it.

Brent Hanifl 04:50
So do you get a lot of people reaching out relating with, you know, a similar sort of, I guess with, its Lupus, right?

Richard Chrz 04:57
Yeah, yep, yep, I have Lupus and I’m also a type one diabetic as well.

Brent Hanifl 05:01
So do you have other people reaching out about cooking and stuff like that, that have seen it?

Richard Chrz 05:05
You know, not really, but I, you know, I have people that reach out and they say they’re inspired. But you know, what I always kind of say is 50 different people, with 50 different disabilities, with 50 different abilities. And you know, just because one person in a chair can do, it doesn’t mean that the next person can. And if there’s anything that I’m trying to do for other patients with this is to let them know that they start the conversations on like, so this is one side of mental wellness, you know, in our healthcare. And in our own, when we have something, there’s a way for us to go and engage in things and you know, find yourself in that and find your conversation. But also to talk about the ideas, like my chair has little bit extra features in it that are not standard. And, boy, if we did those extra features on everyone’s chair, maybe more people could cook, right? They can raise their chair up to a countertop that you know, so lots of chairs can’t do that. So it’s a little bit of use in that way as well. I guess I get lots of people messages saying that, you know, the positive feel of everything that I do from that standpoint.

Brent Hanifl 06:17
Right now, I think I just saw recently you’re doing these sort of, I think it was rack of ribs, but you’re doing kind of a fundraiser with it. Can you can kind of explain those or maybe how people can get involved? Or are you looking for help with those?

Richard Chrz 06:29
Yeah, so go to the Fairchild Kitchen Facebook page. So the point of this is, I’m overly blessed with friends that want to help somehow, some way. And they also know that this is a chronic disease. So it’s not that one fundraiser would ever take care of all the needs down the road. But as someone who is so blessed to have so many friends that want to help, I needed a way to say thank you back for your friendship and your support of what I’m doing. And so I offered up two loaves of bread and said, would anyone want these two loaves of bread at a donation? Assume, look at it as a GoFundMe but instead you’re going to get something back in return. And I really kind of expected I might get four or five people, but I within you know a couple of weeks I had a waiting list of up to 70 people on it. Yeah, and being that smoking food and barbecue was my, was kind of like was what I learned before I went into bread, I also started offering up the idea that not many places around here do, you can get a perfectly smoked rack of ribs or barbecue. If you’re wanting to do that GoFundMe for me, how about in return now though, I give you a rack of ribs and a loaf of bread and return. So my gratitude for your donation is that your family gets to have a meal. And if there’s other ways that we can work that where you know I can help out with graduation parties, which I have I just was recently asked by some musicians I think about 50 to 75 musicians that want me to smoke for outdoor amphitheater this fall. And then hopefully we’re gonna even probably do maybe like a once a month like kind of like an underground barbecue. Here’s your picnic meal and write the first 20 people that sign up for it, take it.

Brent Hanifl 08:22
Being friends with you on Facebook, but also following the Fairchild Kitchen on Facebook, what are some of your top like kind of top or favorite go to recipes?

Richard Chrz 08:31
Oh, boy, I mean the recipes themselves or the meal menu?

Brent Hanifl 08:37
Yeah, menu or something.

Richard Chrz 08:38
Maybe, I mean one of my favorite things is I love an all day red sauce. So I use like a San Marzano. It’s a whole peeled tomato from Italy and the trick to those is you want to get whole peeled not crushed or diced because the whole peeled, they can’t hide blemishes. Right? So you’re getting the better tomatoes to hand crushed and then you get some fresh basil in there. I like to put some crushed red pepper, half an onion, I leave them together, a carrot broken up in five, six pieces. All those things you’re going to take out later, but I’ll bake that down for seven hours. And then that becomes my spaghetti sauce or my lasagna sauce. And it’s just one of those things especially right now this time of year right its starting to get cool that have that oven going. Which by the way I’ve also done it on a grill, I’ve done that red sauce for seven hours on a grill as well. My favorite meals are, you know, I my favorite meals are pizza, spaghetti lasagna, but what I’ve learned is I like to smoke the meatballs and do a classic three meat American Italian with all the great fat in there and smoke it first and then so you get to add that layer of that outdoor cooking to it. And if you want, if it’s a nice day, just go cook it on the grill. All of it right? The grill to me is just an oven with a lid that I get to play with fire in, which is more cool than my indoor oven.

Brent Hanifl 08:46
No kidding, man, it sounds you know, just watching it, It’s just kind of like a whole experience. I mean, it seems like a TV show, cooking show. It’s really great to kind of follow along and see what you’re having, but also knowing it’s going on in La Crosse. So if people want to follow along, what’s the best avenue maybe they want to you know, donate to the fundraiser, maybe get on the list for the bread or the meats, what’s the best avenue for them to go to?

Richard Chrz 10:33
I would say go to Fairchild Kitchen on Facebook. And there’ll be just four people that identify because sometimes different groups come up. There will be a picture of me, I think sideways in the wheelchair for the profile photo of Fairchild Kitchen page, so you’ll know you’re at the right place.

Brent Hanifl 10:50
And weren’t you also just recently in some sort of competition in the last couple of months?

Richard Chrz 10:54
This summer, so I mean this year, I competed in the America’s Favorite Chef. We figured there was about 26,000 people started that online, and I made the top 64 on that. This summer I was blessed to be part of a three man barbecue with Kyle Kerrick and Sean McManus in a competition. And we took, we swept it, took first in chicken and pork. And then I also do, I also turn in my cooks to a place called amazingribs.com, they do a, they have like 70,000 plus members. They highlight about 10 cooks a month. This year so far I think I have made all but one month where I got, I’ve been featured.

Amy Gabay 11:45
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