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Author: OnMilwaukee

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Get hungry.On the FoodCrush podcast, OnMilwaukee Food & Dining Writer Lori Fredrich and Culture Editor Matt Mueller tackle the ins and outs of dining, food facts, interesting ingredients and myriad topics related to food and beverage.Expect smart talk, lively debate and plenty of fascinating conversations with some of the scene’s most interesting people.
120 Episodes
In this very special episode, we’re delving into the culinary offerings at the El Dorado Casitas Royale resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Guiding us on our journey is Chef Eduardo Barra and Paulina Salazar who handles Midwest sales for the resort.During our chat, we get an overview of the all-inclusive resort, plus insights from Chef Barra on the exclusive Fuentes Culinary Theater and Chefs Table experiences, plus an overview of the organic fruits, vegetables and herbs grown in the resort’s expansive greenhouse.If this podcast makes you hungry, you’re in luck, you can join us on a one-of-a-kind trip to the El Dorado Casitas resort in March of 2022. Get all the details here and sign up before all of our slots are filled!
Television has played a starring role in advancing culinary culture in the United States. From Food Network shows that have introduced bashful eaters to a world of new, global flavors to culinary competitions which have served as launchpads for chefs’ careers, the rise of food TV has undeniably influenced the role food plays in our everyday lives.Among many chefs who’ve seen the impact of television appearances on their careers is Jamika Pessoa, a Southern-born chef with roots in the Caribbean whose vibrant personality and unique culinary style has endeared her to television audiences across the nation.In this week’s episode, we chat with Pessoa about her culinary background, her experience on shows like “The Next Food Network Star,” Good Morning America and Dr. Oz’s new series, “The Dish on Oz.” Along the way, she shares her passion for sharing her culinary talents, gives us a glimpse of her plans for the future and offers insights on her upcoming appearance at the Kohler Food & Wine Festival, which kicks off on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.
As the pandemic tide changes, restaurant industry employees are emerging with a new vision for the future of hospitality. Years of stress caused by kitchens ruled by machismo, sexual assault and verbal abuse have brought a new guard to the fore who are challenging the status quo by creating new models for culinary culture.Among them are Katie Gabert and Sam Sandrin of Strega, a nascent concept slated to open this fall in the 3rd Street Market Hall. On this week’s podcast, we sat down with Gabert and Sandrin to talk about the concept behind the new pasta concept. But we also engaged in a lively discussion about the need for change in an industry which – all too often – Along the way, they share their experiences, insights and hopes, along with the challenges of creating a hospitality model built on collaboration, support and inclusivity.
We’ve all made assumptions about large restaurant chains: They care more about profits than people. The quality of their food is low. They don’t engage with the communities in which they operate. But sometimes the values espoused – and enacted – by a large company defy the stereotypes.This week we’re talking to Milwaukee native, Ari Domnitz, about his career in the Milwaukee food scene, from work with venues like Hi-Hat and Hospitality Democracy to taking the leap and owning his own bar and restaurant (Karma). But he also shares insights gleaned from his four-year tenure with Shake Shack, a publicly traded company with over 300 locations. During our conversation, we discuss the brand’s company culture and values, how they’ve influenced Domnitz’s career choices, and (maybe most intriguingly) how the brand is able to thrive in a city where great burgers and frozen custard have been around for decades.
 It’s been four years since SA Braai, maker of South African  sausages (boerewors) and chutney, faded from the Milwaukee scene. But Wendi Horcos, who started the company with her ex-husband in 2013, is working to bring back the brand’s beloved chutney in collaboration with her son, Liam.On this week’s podcast, we’re talking with Horcos about the demise of the business, her entrepreneurial journey to revive it, and the legacy she hopes to leave for her son. Along the way, she also talks about the struggles of small business ownership, her personal journey to food and the strong women who inspired her to begin forging her own new company, Mama Fuerte.
Dark kitchens (also called ghost kitchens) have sprung up in droves over the past year or two. But one Chicago-based restaurant was ahead of the game, with their first dark kitchen launching in California in 2017.This week on the FoodCrush podcast, we’re talking with Geoff Alexander, president and CEO of Wow Bao about the swift expansion of the Wow Bao brand, which currently has over 400 dark kitchen operations across the U.S. with 200 more on the way.  Alexander chats with us about the history of the company, which specializes in creatively filled bao (baozi), dumplings and bowls. Along the way, he shares key factors in the concept’s success, along with insights and wisdom for owner operators looking to grow their restaurants.
Local food systems. They’re complex. And getting food from farms to restaurants is just one piece of an intricate puzzle which has yet to be mastered, even in places like Wisconsin where agriculture is abundant.This week, we’re talking with Dave Swanson, chef and owner of Braise restaurant and culinary school and proprietor of Braise RSA, a hospitality veteran who has been working for over a decade to connect the dots between farms and restaurants.  During our conversation, he offers us an inside look at the state of local food transport, the struggles that have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways folks can support hard-working farmers.
The world of wine can be intimidating. The vernacular is filled with tongue-twisting terms. You need a great memory to keep track of regions, varietals and vintages (what are those things anyhow?). And all of those elements can make an education in wine feel like a truly uphill battle.But, it doesn't need to be that way. Just as Rob Levin, a seasoned restaurant veteran and co-owner of 2A Wine Merchants, a wine shop that knits together the elements of passion, curiosity and hospitality, all with a liberal dose of levity. We're chatting with him this week about his ongoing journey in wine, the way he turns curstomers on to new finds and the joy you can get from wine, even if you're an absolute newbie. And yes, you'll come away with some great recommendations for wines you can try now.
 Nostalgia is a powerful thing. And there may be no nostalgia more powerful than that which accompanies a beloved food. And whether that food is a simple chocolate chip cookie enjoyed after school or a warm, flaky croissant eaten on the streets of Paris there’s a bit of magic in the memories that it conjures.That magic is what the owners of Mid-Way Bakery hope to capture with their menu of sweet treats which run the gamut from indulgent peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and caramel-filled brownies to indulgent cream puffs and expertly plated desserts. This week on the podcast, we’re chatting it up with Katie and Kurt Fogle, the husband and wife pastry chef team heading up the new bakery. And they’re sharing all the sweet stuff: from the inspiration for the Mid-Way name to the secrets behind some of their most delicious treats.
From its rolling hills, where cows happily graze, to the fertile valleys where small family farms thrive, Wisconsin is a goldmine for outdoor enthusiasts, food lovers and agritourists.On this week's podcast, we’re chatting with returning guest and author Kristine Hansen about her new book, "Wisconsin Farms & Farmers Markets: Tours, Trails & Attractions,” a book that not only showcases the bounty of the Dairy State, but offers travelers a host of hidden gems to explore. Along the way, Hansen talks about the process of writing the book, reveals some of her favorite destinations and answers questions like “What’s a chocolate farm?”
Hot dogs may not have originated in the U.S., but for countless Americans, they represent the epitome of comfort, whether eaten from a humble street cart, at a backyard barbeque or – even more memorably – at the ballpark.This week on the podcast, we’re chatting with Hank Stiehl, co-owner of Riley’s Good Dogs, a nascent mobile food concept that’s banking on America’s love for the hot dog with a menu of both plant-based and meat-based hot dogs and sausages that takes the classic comfort food to new levels. From dreaming up innovative sausage-based combinations to creating a business model that’s as good to the earth as it is to customers’ stomachs, we’re getting to the bottom of Riley’s dog- and people-friendly concept to find out what makes their “good dogs” some of the best of the bunch.
There’s nothing quite like fresh, local fare that’s been caramelized by the caress of live fire. And that’s exactly what you’ll find at Birch, the reimagined Cream City restaurant which specializes in hearth-fired cooking.On this week’s podcast, we’re taking a closer look at all that deliciousness with Chef Kyle Knall, an accomplished chef whose commitment to fresh, local produce is as impressive as his ability to coax flavor from ingredients using one of the oldest cooking methods known to humankind. During our conversation, Knall delves into the nuances of cooking with fire, the approach he takes at the helm of the restaurant and his vision for Birch guests’ experiences. Along the way, we glean insights into his culinary background and his impressions of Milwaukee, a city he’s adopted as home.
Tupelo Honey Cafe, a concept born in Asheville, North Carolina, is slated to open its first Wisconsin location in Downtown Milwaukee before summer’s end. And that means plenty of Southern fare, from tender biscuits and fried chicken to fried green tomatoes. But what makes Tupelo Honey so special? We had many questions. So, on this week’s podcast, we checked in with four-time James Beard Award semi-finalist Executive Chef Eric Gabrynowicz, who gave us the low-down on the Tupelo Honey brand and guest experience. Along the way he shares why Milwaukee possesses the perfect demographics for the concept, the menu items you won’t want to miss and a few special items that guests will only be able to find in the Cream City.
When folks think about Milwaukee, two things often come to mind: beer and cheese. But how about vegan beer and cheese? The two go hand in hand at Dead Bird Brewing Co., a craft brewery that’s making a splash with not only its beer, but its housemade plant-based deli offerings, including cheese.This week we’re chatting with co-founder Nick Kocis about how the plant-based brewery got its start, the story behind its name (of course) and the cool things they’ve been brewing up, including their Big Baby Vegan Deli product line. Along the way, we geek out about the science behind creating vegan cheese, why the brewery chose sunflower seeds as the protein source for its cheese and the cheese-making technology that informs the process. Kocis also gives us a glimpse into the exciting things on the docket for the crafty vegan brewery.
What makes a great burger?

What makes a great burger?


Hamburgers. They come thick and thin. Fresh and frozen. Steamed and charbroiled. With and without cheese. But what is it about a classic old school flat-top burger that keeps us all coming back for more?That’s among the myriad questions Kurt Fogle and Joe McCormick asked themselves while forming the foundations for the Dairyland Old Fashioned Frozen Custard & Hamburgers concept, which aims to perfect and steward classic Wisconsin flavors, keeping them alive for future generations.And this week on FoodCrush, we’re tapping their brains to find out more about burgers, the science behind a great one and the folks behind one of the tiniest-but-mightiest burger and custard brands in the state of Wisconsin.
Among the many treasures which India possesses is its culinary diversity, which varies dramatically from north to south and east to west. And that which is showcased in Indian restaurants is just a glimpse of those riches.On this week’s podcast, we’re chatting with Ruta Kahate, cookbook author and owner of Ruta’s Vibrant Indian Cafe about that diversity and what she hopes to showcase at her new restaurant. During our time with her, she tells us the story of her journey to food – from growing up in India to her experiences living and cooking in both California and India  – as well as the reasons she chose Milwaukee, Wisconsin as the home for her latest restaurant endeavor.
Filipino food is having a moment, with awareness and appreciation of the cuisine growing across the nation. And that’s good news for businesses like Meat on the Street, a food truck that’s been serving a broad range of Filipino dishes since 2014.This week we are talking to Meat on the Street owner Alexa Alfaro about the evolution of the business, the challenges it has faced and the vision for the future, including a pending rebrand that brings its Filipino roots to the fore. Along the way, she offers insights into her experience as an Asian American, her desire to educate customers about Filipino culture and the need for all of us to come together, listen, and use our curiosity to create understanding. 
Most people love the idea of buying local. But seeking out local products and getting to the farmers market can be challenging.This week we are chatting with Patrick Darrough of Milwaukee Farmers United and Milwaukee Microgreens about how they took the notions of collaboration and support and used them to create a convenient online farmers market and home delivery service that benefits farmers, makers and customers.During our chat, Darrough shares the origin story of MFU as well as the circumstances under which the business has evolved and grown. He talks about how the pandemic impacted the online delivery business, as well as the positive impact they’ve had on local farms and small food businesses. We also chat about the differences between MFU and national delivery services that claim to carry local products.
When Angie Wierzbinski and Amy Plennes purchased The National Cafe from Nell Benton in 2019, the two long-time friends had no idea that, within their first year of business ownership they’d confront not only the usual challenges of entrepreneurism, but also the uncertainty of a global pandemic.During this week’s podcast, we chat with the two owners about their decision to take over the longtime neighborhood cafe, the magic that makes their partnership work and the grit they employed to make sure the business survived the first stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic. Along the way, they paint the picture of two friends who’ve made full use of their complementary talents to survive one of the most challenging times in restaurant history.
It’s been over four years since Tamela Green and Anne Marie Arroyo embarked on the career-changing journey which would result in two now-beloved eateries: MOXIE and Trouble & Sons Pizzeria. During this week’s podcast, we chat with Green and Arroyo about making lemonade from lemons, as they used their 2015 lay-off from Harley-Davidson as an opportunity to bring their long-time dream of owning a business to fruition. We chat about both the challenges and rewards they encountered along the way, including adapting to the “new normal” of the COVID-19 pandemic and finding creative ways to continue to serve their customers. Along the way, we get to know two women whose fearless determination, spunk and tenacity assisted them in creating a new life for themselves and their family while benefiting the local community.
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