Andrew Higgs serves up lunches that will make you wish you worked at Fossil, Inc.: Photo by Kim Leeson

Andrew Higgs serves up lunches that will make you wish you worked at Fossil, Inc.: Photo by Kim Leeson

Andrew Higgs has worked in the kitchens at the Nasher Café by Wolfgang Puck and R+D Kitchen. So when he was approached in 2011 about becoming executive chef for the employee eatery inside Fossil Inc. in Richardson, he was a little hesitant.

“I thought it may be meatloaf and mashed potatoes,” he says. Turns out, he was way wrong: His operation, which serves around 1,000 people a day, is a far cry from stereotypical cafeteria fare. In fact, he says, “ ’teria’ is a dirty word. We call them cafés.” On any given day, Fossil employees and their guests may be able to nosh on some yakitori, pick up a few Korean tacos or enjoy the pho bar.

Higgs says the median age of his customers is about 30, which he considers a real plus. “They’re young,” he says. “They’re very receptive to cool food.” So Higgs is able to try more exotic ideas and explore food trends. Some stations mimic local restaurants: The Scratch Shack, for instance, was inspired by Oak Cliff restaurant Chicken Scratch. He also has featured a Velvet Taco-ish station.

The Lake Highlands resident didn’t always plan on a culinary career. He spent six years in Minneapolis studying music and working as a bartender. “One night [while he was bartending] someone didn’t show up in the kitchen,” he says. Since Higgs enjoyed cooking, he volunteered to fill in. “I jumped on the line, and within months I was the sous chef,” he says. “I never looked back.”

He says the biggest draw for his current job was “the quality-of-life factor — no nights, no weekends.” That’s a real bonus for Higgs, since he and his wife have a 3-year-old son and an infant daughter. “I love the culture of being in the kitchen,” he says. But restaurant life can be difficult. “People want to have families. They want to eat in those restaurants.” He says that chefs from prestigious restaurants such as Smoke and Wolfgang Puck have recently joined his company, Eurest, to take over other corporate kitchens.

The hours may be more traditional, but corporate dining definitely has its challenges. “In a restaurant,” Higgs says, “there are two or three seasonal menus. But we have seven stations, and they change every day.”

Still, working as a 9-to-5 chef at Fossil gives Higgs the best of both worlds. He can go out and enjoy his favorite restaurants, such as Teppo on Lower Greenville or Parigi on Oak Lawn.

“It’s kind of a challenge to eat out with kids,” he says. “But we’ll see a lot more places like Chicken Scratch and The Lot, family-friendly with great food.”