Marlo Hix-Spreng, head chef at Walkers Grill, was recently voted the Chef of the Year by the Chefs and Cooks of Montana. We got the chance to sit down with her during her busy schedule and learn more about her and her love of food. If you haven’t tried Marlo’s delicious creations, make sure you stop by Walkers to get a taste.
Marlo’s favorite thing to do in Billings is go to the park or ride bikes with her family. Her son Greyden makes a mean peanut butter and jelly pizza that he learned from a video online.
Where do you think your love of cooking comes from?
My love of eating. That is my honest answer. I am an eater, and I think that is why I can cook. That moment when you’re a kid and you make something and it makes someone else happy, even if it was probably pretend happy. It’s a fun way to make people happy.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
A chef from the get go. I am very lucky that there was never a question in my mind, and this was before cooking shows and before the Food Network. Nowadays it’s different because you guys have heard of cooking shows. We hadn’t ever heard of a cooking school when I was in high school. Other people had, but we were in Colorado. My mom found a book of cooking schools. My high school counselor didn’t even know there was such a thing as a cooking school. Back then we didn’t have computers. If it wasn’t in a book and you didn’t know it, that was all you knew. How else are you going to know? You could make a phone call, but even then, who are you calling? So when everyone was deciding what colleges they were going to, I had no idea. I just wanted to be a chef.
What is your favorite menu item to make at Walkers?
I love doing the fish of the day. We get very nice fish flown in from Hawaii and all over the world. It’s my favorite thing by far to cook and deal with. With Fedex we get fish overnight, so we order the day before and would get it tomorrow.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I have always said ‘simple and straightforward.’ Just fresh ingredients, a good technique, and straightforward flavors.
What is something that you would love to add to the menu?
I would love to add octopus to the menu. We keep trying different ways to cook it. We’ve tried grilling, frying, and ceviche. We just need to find the right fit for it. I think Billings would really like it.
What is your least favorite item to cook and why?
I don’t like peeling onions at home. All the skins make a mess. Here I don’t mind, but at home it gets all over the floor and stuff. I am not easily grossed out, but I don’t like gutting or scaling fish. We get fish that is gutted for us.
Does being a cook make you critical of other restaurants? If not, where do you like to eat?
Being a cook makes you critical of other people’s food for sure, but my favorite thing is to have other people cook for me. The fact that someone invites you to their home or where they work and takes the time to cook for you. If it’s hamburgers, I don’t care. I wish people weren’t nervous. You’re making tacos? Tacos are great! I don’t care. My favorite place to eat would be at home with my family.
What events or charities around Billings are you a part of?
We just started trying to be more active with the charities. We have done the Taste of Summer and Taste of Billings. I am doing the Zonta event [soon]. From what I understand, it’s a group of women who help younger girls. We’ve done Men Cooking for a Cure. [A fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.] That was probably my favorite this past year. I got to be partnered with Big J from the radio show. Our dish won the event. He was so much fun to partner with. It made the event fun. If we do it next year I have no idea what I am going to do because we won and it was such a hit. How do you beat that?
If you were stranded on an island, what three foods would you take with you?
What could I not get sick of? Tortillas. I eat tortillas with everything. No, I would just take cheese, baguettes, and wine. I can’t live without cheese and I would need something to eat it with.
Billings365.com hopes to inspire locals and visitors alike to attend local events, try new things, and support local dining, shopping, music, nightlife, and recreation. So, Go Do Something!