Featured chef: Kim Baldwin at Carson's
For the seventh straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2013."
Last spring, the Chicago-based Carson's brought its steaks and famous barbecued ribs to Milwaukee, setting up in the brand-spankin'-new Moderne tower, 1141 N. Old World 3rd St.
Now that Dean Carson and his crew have had some time to get settled into their new Park East home, we caught up with Executive Chef Kim Baldwin, who has worked at Carson's for three decades, working her way up from table service, and has been in Brew City for a few months, helping to get the city's first Carson's up and running.
OnMilwaukee.com: What kind of experience and training brought you to your current position?
Kim Baldwin: Thirty years ago I started as a server with Carson's and then moved into management. Very early on I discovered that I had a passion for cooking and learning more about food. I wanted to take a more hands-on approach and that is what led me to the kitchen.
OMC: You've been at Carson's a long time, but in Milwaukee just a little while. Have you gotten comfortable here?
KB: Yes. Very comfortable. Between finishing construction and training our kitchen staff, I've been here for almost six months.
OMC: Do you plan to stay a while?
KB: Dean Carson and I focus on the food and therefore we will always be a constant presence in
OMC: What has the experience like so far in the restaurant? Have Milwaukee diners fallen in love with Carson's?
KB: The experience has been great. I love my kitchen staff and it seems like our Milwaukee guests love them, as well. My kitchen staff is all local and we all share the same genuine passion for the love of food. They make every day a special day for me. When a kitchen is as happy as we are, the food will always taste better and that makes the guests experience even better.
OMC: I like to cook and I'm decent at it, but I always struggle with getting steaks right at home. What are some tips for making a great steak at home?
KB: Like most things from horseshoes to shooting pool, the more you do something the better you get at it. My line cooks can grill 30, 40, even 50 steaks at once and at all different temperatures. Our broiler can get up to 1100 degrees. The easiest tip I can recommend? Make sure your grill is hot hot hot, you have good ventilation and try and get your hands on a prime steak – Allen Brothers comes to mind.
OMC: Do you have any favorite places to eat out in Milwaukee yet?
KB: Does Glorioso's count? I know it's not a typical "dining out" establishment, but I rarely have time to go out. I love picking up meatballs from Glorioso's and making myself a nice pasta dinner at home.
OMC: Is there a chef in town whose work you especially admire?
KB: I'm sure there are many and I'm excited to experience all of the fantastic restaurants Milwaukee has to offer. Unfortunately, I haven't had a day off in months so I haven't had the opportunity to enjoy much outside of Carson's!
OMC: Do you have a favorite cookbook?
KB: "The Joy of Cooking" – all the basics. I just sent one to my new daughter-in-law. It was the first cookbook that I ever picked up and I still refer to it this day.
OMC: Do you have a favorite TV or celebrity chef?
KB: I love chef Eric Ripert. He is so pleasant and charismatic. I would love to just talk to him and watch him cook and learn from him.
OMC: What's been the biggest development in the culinary arts over the past 10 years?
KB: There have been many good ones. I especially like the use of local ingredients in cooking. Using local ingredients shows your pride in the area and highlights what it has to offer. One development I don't like, however, are young chefs worrying about getting famous instead of getting better. It's always been – and always will be – about the food.
OMC: What kitchen utensil can't you live without?
KB: Like most chefs, it's my knives!
OMC: What's the next big trend in food?
KB: Simple, but great food. Fussy is out.
OMC: What's the toughest day / night to work in the restaurant biz?
KB: I know it sounds like a cliche, but I honestly love what I do. I love coming into work every day and the busier we are, the happier I am, even if it means working a little harder.
OMC: What's your guilty dining pleasure?
KB: Pizza! It's my favorite food, although I wouldn't call it a "guilty" pleasure. But I would eat it seven days a week.
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