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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.
93 Episodes
Life is often a meandering path, and for many, it takes years of exploration to discover the direction our lives were meant to travel. Such was the case for chef and owner JenniferBetances of Fresh Baked Cafe. On this week’s podcast, we chat with Betances about her culinary journey. It’s a path which began in her home kitchen but which ultimately led her to Europe, the place where she found her true calling. During the course of our conversation, Betances offers us a firsthand look at the origins of her passion for French pastries as well as the drive that led to her mastery of the tender, flakey laminated dough that became the foundation for her bakery business. But she also offers up a story of hope, inspiration and the immense power of second chances.
Behind every restaurant, there’s a story. And behind that story are people, whose passions and life experiences are so often translated into the food that ends up on the plates they serve. Such is the case at Mina, a new concept which launched at the Crossroads Collective in 2020. To get to the bottom of Mina concept, we’re chatting with Ryan Hoffman and Patrice Gentile, two passionate owners whose travels, experiences and love for food and culture inspired a small plates concept that whisks diners away to European climes through pintxos and creative plates that reflect both the culture of their origins and the seasonal fare of the Midwest. Throughout the course of our conversation, we glean insights into the Mina concept, the inspiration behind its dishes and the challenges of launching a new concept during a global pandemic. Even more compelling, we’re offered a glimpse into the lives and goals of two seasoned travelers who’ve brought a bit of their experiences to the proverbial table. 
Talk to any small business owner and they’ll share stories about the challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. But many will also share stories of inspiration, silver linings and growth.For folks like Chef Micah Buck and Jordan Burich of Voyager, the pandemic has offered them the opportunity to reevaluate their business, synchronize their vision and embark on an entirely new adventure filled with unique wines and delicious cheeses.On this week’s podcast, we’re talking with Buck and Burich about all of those things, from shutting down their wine bar in March to reopening as a fantastic new retail establishment well stocked with wine, exceptional (and sometimes life-changing) cheeses and rare foodie finds from Portuguese sardines to caviar. Along the way, they weave the story of two industry folks who’ve found joy in dark times and a renewed passion for the work they do.
Pizza is a science. But it’s also an art form. This week on FoodCrush, we’re talking with two experts on the topic: Ann Brock and James Durawa, the owners of Wy’East Pizza.Follow along as Brock and Durawa share their journey to pizza, from their serendipitous meeting in Milwaukee to their move to Portland, Oregon where they established the Wy’East brand as a pizza trailer. Along the way, we geek out with Durawa about the science behind his dough, glean insights about what makes their restaurant so unique and (ultimately) get inside look at some of the reasons why Wy’East has become one of the West Side’s most beloved pizza joints.
There’s nothing quite like a freshly baked bagel. The exterior is glossy and caramelized with a distinctive crispness and a soft, chewy interior that has a mellow, yet complex flavor. Top that off with cream cheese and house-cured lox and you’ve got one helluva breakfast, lunch or snack.Of course,  that’s just a modicum of what you’ll find at Allie Boy’s Bagelry & Luncheonette, one of the newest spots in Milwaukee to get an amazing bagel... and  enjoy a great line-up of elevated deli-inspired noshes.This week on FoodCrush, we chat with Staci Lopez and Ben Nerenhausen, owners of Allie Boy’s about their experiences opening a new restaurant even during the most challenging of times. Over the course of our conversation, we learn more about this accomplished couple, who’ve worked in restaurants across the U.S., glean insights into the vision for Allie Boy’s, the challenges the business has faced, and the bright future they hope to build in their new Milwaukee home.
It’s been over 25 years since the brand now known as Colectivo Coffee was established in Milwaukee. Over those years, the company has seen a name change (from Alterra to Colectivo), growth into new markets including Madison and Chicago and the birth of an adjunct brand, Troubadour Bakery. It’s also faced numerous challenges, from managing growing pains and meeting employee expectations to facing the challenges of a global pandemic.On this week’s podcast, we chat with Scott Schwebel, the vice president of brand, marketing and retail for Colectivo Coffee about all of these things and more. During our conversation, we take a trip down memory lane and look back on the history of the popular hometown coffee brand, which began as a kiosk at Bayshore Mall and has grown to encompass over 20 retail locations. Along the way, we discuss the brand’s mission and values, the way they’ve adapted to change, steered through the pandemic and some of the ways they plan to navigate the uncertain future. 
 The cuisine of Laos is currently having its moment in cities throughout the U.S. That’s thanks, in large part, to a new crop of young chefs who’ve made it their mission to highlight the bold, vibrant flavors of Lao fare, a cuisine which has all-too-often been eclipsed by dishes from their (larger) neighboring countries of Thailand, Vietnam and China. Among those young chefs is Darleen Vanmanivong, an industry veteran who spent nearly a decade cooking food for other chefs before branching out to start her own restaurant, Thum.On this week’s podcast, we chat with Vanmanivong about the food she grew up eating, the grandmother who inspired her desire to share her culture and the philosophy with which she approaches her food. Along the way, we diverge to discuss a variety of food-related topics, from whole animal butchery (and items like fish eyeballs) to the flatulent secrets of sunchokes.
 When Taqwa Obaid and her husband Abdullah Habahbeh moved to Wisconsin, it didn’t take long for them to notice a void in the market. There was nowhere to find freshly baked taboun bread, the soft Palestinian flatbread named for the traditional clay ovens in which it was first baked. So Obaid decided to take matters into her own hands, learning to master the bread-making process and sharing the fruits of her labor with friends and neighbors.Three years later, the husband and wife team, along with business partner Luran Allabadi, launched their very own bakery and restaurant, introducing the area to time-honored Palestinian and Jordanian recipes like manakish, fatayer, mosakhan and dawalee, as well as sweet treats like baklava, warbat and maamoul.On this week’s podcast, we were honored to chat with Obaid about her journey to restaurant ownership, her desire to preserve traditional recipes and the rewards of sharing them with the larger community. Along the way, she shares what it feels like to see her dream of owning a restaurant fulfilled, her vision and plans for the future and her desire to give back to the community which has welcomed her with open arms.
When Odd Duck opened in 2012, it offered diners in Milwaukee something new: a mid-priced restaurant with all the charms of finer dining. Eight years later, the popular restaurant is still serving up their inventive small plates, but in a very different environment.On this week’s podcast, we sat down with Odd Duck owners, Melissa Buchholz and Ross Bachhuber to discuss the inspiration for the restaurant, the ways in which they’ve adapted their restaurant to meet the needs of diners over the years and the factors they’ve considered while operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along the way, we discuss the intricate network of farms and businesses that keep the service industry running, the things diners likely don’t know about how restaurants operate and the passion that fuels the industry. Tune in for a rare glimpse behind the scenes at their restaurant, insights into what the industry at large is facing and a vision for a (hopefully) better dining future.
The Tandem, which opened its doors in November of 2016, has never been an ordinary  restaurant. Founded with three goals in mind: to nourish neighbors, to build careers and to support the community, the eatery gleaned a following not only for its menu, but for its commitment to the Lindsay Heights community in which it resides. Even after shuttering its doors in March following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the three tenets of The Tandem's mission have remained steadfast, evolving to meet even greater needs.On this week’s podcast, we chat with Caitlin Cullen, owner of The Tandem, about how the restaurant’s model has changed over the course of the last six months and how they have continued to nourish the community in new ways: first by feeding those in need and now by offering after-school tutoring for local students. During the course of our candid (yet inevitably smile-invoking) conversation, Cullen shares her experience at the helm of a sinking restaurant ship, the risks she’s taken to continue the work she began in 2016 and the future she sees, even during these foggy, uncertain times.
For 30 years, Sanford has been a Milwaukee staple. And Chef Justin Aprahamian has been a part of that story for the last 18.This week on FoodCrush, we sit down with Aprahamian to chat about his experience at the helm of one of the city’s most iconic restaurants and the ways he and his staff have navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. From shifting gears and offering family meals for carry-out, to bringing joy to customers by releasing a Wisconsin State Fair-inspired menu, Aprahamian offers insights into the inner workings of a fine dining restaurant which has been forced to shift and evolve in order to survive in these unprecedented times. Along the way, he shares an inside look at what it takes to run a fine dining restaurant in a carry-out world, the inspiration and creativity that keeps the Sanford motor running and the future he hopes for once the pandemic has passed. Along the way, he paints a picture of how eateries can press forward without compromising their values, quality or sense of service, even during these unprecedented times.
If you love food and you're also a fan of “The Sopranos,” you'll likely remember the scene where Vito Spattafore prepares a home-cooked meal of pork chops and vinegar peppers for Jim "Johnny Cakes" Witowski. The Italian-American dish, which is thought to have origins in the Neapolitan dish costolette di maiale con papaccelle, is an East Coast staple.  It’s also a dish that conjures fond, familiar memories for New Jersey natives Chef Kyle Toner and Paul Damora, co-owners of Sorella, a nascent restaurant which is swiftly attracting a loyal following in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, despite opening during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.On this week’s podcast, we chat with Toner and Damora about the secret sauce behind Sorella, a restaurant built from their collective backgrounds as Italian American New Jersey natives and perfected by years of experience in the restaurant industry. Together, they share the vision for Sorella, the yin and yang that makes their partnership work and the nostalgic dishes that form the basis for the restaurant’s menu. Along the way, they also share the details of their journey to open their first restaurant during one of the toughest moments in history for the restaurant industry.
Cheese makes the world go ‘round here in the Dairy State. But it was also the foundation on which MacKenzie Smith, author at Grilled Cheese Social and chef for the Black Dolphin Inn in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, built her storied career in food.On this week’s podcast, we sat down with Smith to learn more about her journey from food blogger to Food Network chef. During our chat, she talks about the early years of Grilled Cheese Social, a blog she started while in graduate school, the Reddit thread that brought her notoriety and the mad sequence of events that led to her work as a chef. Along the way, she shares a variety of wild and wonderful tales from her experiences food styling for Jimmy Fallonand Giselle Bündchen to earning props as a two time winner on The Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games.
Restaurants across the nation have been implementing unprecedented levels of creativity to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. But what about all of the caterers whose livelihoods are based on folks getting together and celebrating special occasions? This week we talked with Dan Nowak, founder and owner of Tall Guy & A Grill, a catering operation that’s made a name for itself by serving well-executed locally sourced fare for weddings, parties and corporate events for nearly a decade. During our conversation, Nowak shares the vision behind the Tall Guy brand, the evolution of the business and the incredible pivots they’ve made to keep the business running during the pandemic. Along the way he shares wisdom from years of experience in the industry, tips for folks considering the catering profession and his vision for moving his business forward, including the launch of a new pop-up concept called Flour Girl & Flame.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a truly delicious doughnut.Its dough is buoyant and buttery with a subtle, satisfying chew. Its icing is smooth and sweet, but not cloying. It's indulgent; but at the same time balanced and restrained.That's just the sort of doughnut that Chef Jackie Woods sought to create when he opened Donut Monster, a playfully named doughnut shop that’s taken a humble comfort food and elevated it to a new level.  This week on FoodCrush, we’re exploring the world of doughnuts with a fine dining chef who redirected his passion for creating balanced, well prepared dishes into a mission to create the best tasting doughnuts possible. Along the way, he offers insights into his creative process, his benchmarks for excellence and the thought processes that keep him focused on upping the ante on one of America’s favorite breakfast treats. He also gives us a peek into the future of both Donut Monster and Brute Pizza, his newest collaboration with chef and colleague Paris Dreibelbis.
Opening a restaurant is never a small feat. But opening  a first restaurant during a pandemic  is even moreso. Such was the case for Arielle and Brandon Hawthorne, who first launched their plant-based food truck Twisted Plants in May of 2019 and – just one year later – have successfully made the transition from mobile food operation to restaurant.This week on FoodCrush, we talk with Brandon Hawthorne about the Twisted Plants journey, their inspiration for launching a plant-based business and both the excitement (and challenges) of switching over from a food truck to a brick and mortar restaurant. Along the way, he discusses the inspiration behind Twisted Plants, the food they serve and their vision for the future.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the U.S., bar and restaurant owners are faced with numerous challenges. For most, questions like “How do I keep both my employees and customers safe?” and “How do I do so while remaining afloat?” are at the fore of every decision made about everyday operations.On this week’s podcast, we chat with Nat Davauer, owner and operator of Draft & Vessel, about the quandaries he faces as a bar owner. We talk candidly about how community gathering places have come under fire for promoting the spread of COVID-19, the fiduciary concerns owners face as we race toward the end of patio season and the attitudes that could make or break our country’s recovery from the pandemic. Over the course of our conversation, we glean insights into Davauer’s operational philosophies, the dilemmas he faces as a business owner and the steps he’s taken to navigate uncharted terrain. Along the way, he paints a thoughtful picture of the unprecedented creativity and ideals he feels are needed for the industry to navigate its way through these tough times.
As restaurants struggle to make it during the COVID-19 pandemic, many chefs and workers are speaking out and fighting for legislation that aims to preserve the livelihoods of 15.1 million restaurant industry employees. But one Madison chef is taking the fight one step further. She’s running for Wisconsin State Assembly.On this week’s podcast, we talk with Francesca Hong, chef and co-owner of Morris Ramen, about her motivation in seeking out a position in the State Assembly. During our discussion, she shares the details of her journey to the culinary world and how that experience inspired her to speak up on behalf of labor rights, a long-term COVID-19 recovery plan and the need for a safety net for small businesses. We discuss her work with the community-driven Culinary Ladies Collective and Cook It Forward, a program created to tackle food insecurity. Along the way, Hong paints the picture of a community driven chef whose passion for community has made her an advocate for change in an uncertain world.
The Bartolotta Restaurants have built their reputation on their dedication to offering guests memorable dining experiences. In fact, many have looked to them as exemplars, viewing Bartolotta-trained staff as some of the most valued in the industry. But these restaurants, like so many others, have not been immune to the uncertainty and financial strains presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This week on the podcast, we engage in a candid conversation with Chef Paul Bartolotta, two-time James Beard award winner and co-founder of the Bartolotta Restaurants. During our chat, he shares the insights gleaned from over  30 years in the restaurant industry as he talks about the process of reimagining the Bartolotta dining experience. Along the way, we glean insights into Bartolotta’s personality, his love for the industry and the tenacity that keeps restaurants going in an unprecedented age.
"If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him...the people who give you their food give you their heart." – Cesar ChavezIf you need a bit of joy in your life (we all do), join us on this week’s podcast during which we talk with Victoria Sithy, co-owner of Sweet Basil, a bold new Lao restaurant which opened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. During our chat, Sithy shares the story of how her family entered the restaurant business, the thinking that went into their menu of street food inspired Lao cuisine and the spirit that has kept them going during these challenging times.Even if you’ve never enjoyed FoodCrush before, give this a listen. You’re sure to come away from this episode with a smile on your face, joy in your heart and a hankering for some delicious Lao street food from Sweet Basil.
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