Chef likes to cook up wins
Jim Gintonio
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 9, 2006 12:00 AM

As an executive chef, Austin Pascucci's goal is to cook up a storm with some fancy grub.

Inside of a cage, he gets down to the basics: trying to scramble somebody's brains.

Pascucci, 29, who grew up wrestling and boxing, turned to cage fighting after settling in the Valley after a four-year stint in the Marine Corps. In between, he never wavered from his love of cooking, and he's now an executive chef at Jackson's Grill in Flagstaff after graduating from a culinary institute in Scottsdale.

"I've always been an active person," said Pascucci, a native of Greenwich, Conn. "This was easier for me to get into than other things. It keeps me out of trouble."

It also keeps him on the road. He travels to the Valley to train four times a week. In the early stages of his new career, the 150-pounder has a 1-1 record, and he'll have his third match at Saturday night's Rage in the Cage at the Fort McDowell Casino.

Pascucci wrestled at Scottsdale Chaparral High and was an amateur boxer, and he has used those skills, in addition to the new talents he has picked up, in the cage.

"I lost my first fight, and I think that was because of a lack of experience and knowledge," he sad. "When you get in the ring, it's a different thing than when you're training. But I took that experience into the second fight and put the guy out in the first round."

His winning move? The ever-popular triangle choke and strikes to the head.

"It was a lot of fun," he said.

He has heard all the negative talk associated with cage fighting, especially from boxers, but he dismisses that.

"I can tell you from my point of view," said Pascucci. "I boxed for seven years, and my grandfather was a New England champion. Boxers take a lot more strikes to the face and body than a cage fighter. I think this is less dangerous.

"I'm in the Valley four nights, and then I do a lot of interval training at the high altitude in Flagstaff."

As a youngster, he spent a lot of time in the kitchen with his mother, and his passion for cooking began while watching her whip up pasta dishes.

"Once I did that hamburger-hot dog-cooking thing, but this (executive chef) is a whole new ballgame," he said.

In the Marines, he said, there was no chance to show off his culinary skills. He was stationed in San Diego and did tours of duty in Iraq, Okinawa and Australia.

"That was all about being a soldier," he said. "I shot cannons. That had nothing to do with cooking."