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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

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Chef Todd Moore, second from left, talks with OnMilwaukee.com about his culinary philosophy and personal style.
Chef Todd Moore, second from left, talks with OnMilwaukee.com about his culinary philosophy and personal style.

Lake Park Bistro chef has a flair for style

I always liked Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro. I liked it even (Moore) when I met chef de cuisine Todd Moore.

He brings a certain attitude into the kitchen – a flair, if you will. Here he describes his unique style and why he prefers vinyl over digital.

OnMilwaukee.com: You've just become the chef de cuisine at Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro. Take me through your culinary career.

Todd Moore: I didn’t start cooking till a bit later, in my late 20s. I was working in the technology sector after college, there was the dot-com boom, and all the jobs were there. For work, I traveled weekly nationally and internationally and became increasingly more interested in food. I would check out restaurants in various cities, markets, that sort of thing. I spent a lot of time in airports reading, and basically I read as much as I could about food culture and history.

The bottom fell out of the technology sector, and I found myself jobless, living in Chicago. That led to the decision that I was going to cook for a living, so I enrolled in culinary school to learn some fundamentals, while in school I had a connection to a well-known Chicago chef, I went into his restaurant and asked him if I could work for free, he agreed to take me on, and that was the start.

The restaurant was Blackbird; from there I went on to work at a number of restaurants in Chicago, most notably spending time at Spiaggia and Longman and Eagle.

I grew a bit tired of the Chicago dining scene and was looking to make a move to either Minneapolis or Milwaukee. During this period I had a meeting with Adam Siegel, and that led to my current position at Lake Park Bistro.

OMC: All chefs have a unique look. What shapes your personal style?

TM: My style, I think is primarily shaped by where I grew up, the '80s in a very WASPy suburb of Chicago … there were a lot of eccentric characters around town, my family included, with all sorts of interests: art, architecture, music, fashion, a bunch of culture junkies that were straight out of the preppy handbook.

My father was a sharp dresser back in the day: loafers, no socks, monogrammed white Oxford shirts, madras pants, Ray-Bans, old cars and motorcycles; he was a big influence.

Music has always been a style influence as well, I took some cues from Malcolm McLaren, and have always thought that Jarvis Cocker does it right.

OMC: Your tortoiseshell glasses suit you very well. Why a patterned frame as opposed to black?

TM: I like tortoise shell, it just fits. It always will.

OMC: Where do you shop in town?

TM: Rushmore records, I don’t know where to even buy men’s clothing in Milwaukee, the last item I bought, a LL Bean Chamois shirt from the mid '80s was from a seller on Etsy … I bought some socks at CVS on Downer Avenue the other day, because I forgot to wear socks to work. I have some odd habits. Other than that Barney’s in Chicago for something special.

OMC: Lake Park Bistro has undergone a facelift. What are some of the changes at the restaurant?

TM: A new zinc bar was installed, beer taps, interior painting, new refrigeration on the line, drapery, new artwork to follow. It’s a great facelift for the most beautiful restaurant in the city in my opinion. You can’t go wrong when Fredrick Law Olmsted designed the place.

OMC: Who are your culinary idols? What chefs have great style in and out of the kitchen?

TM: Idols are a bit strong, I rather think of influences.There are several guys that I cooked with along the way, all crossing paths at Blackbird. Paul, Jared, Yoni, were mentors each with distinct styles and tastes. Cooks like Jeremiah Tower and David Tanis from Chez Panisse also influenced me; culinary writers like Waverly Root, Elizabeth David, Anne Willan, Paula Wolfert were also factors. All the kitchens I have had the opportunity to cook in have influenced me; Lake Park has certainly played a role, both Adam (Siegel) and Zak (Baker).

Chefs with style … Marco Pierre White seems like he’s got style.

OMC: What's new in your iTunes queue?

TM: Digital is a great way to sample music, but I am partial to vinyl. Recent purchases have included The Velvet Underground "Live At Max’s Kansas City," Can’s "Future Days" and Thee Oh See’s "Carrion Crawler."

OMC: You've set roots with your family in Milwaukee. What's your favorite activity in your neighborhood?

TM: We recently purchased a house built in 1925 in the Bay View neighborhood. It’s a lovely house, but a bit of a mess, so right now my free time is spent working on the house.

We go for walks, weather permitted.

OMC: When you go out (when you even get a chance with a one year old), what's your go-to outfit?

TM: Nantucket red pants and old Oxford shirt, blue Mark McNairy chukka boots … or beat-up Tod’s loafers, no socks.

OMC: Does your profession and your style intersect?

TM: I think they do in a certain sense, there is creative element to both, and my cooking and style are both influenced by the culture I choose to absorb.

OMC: Do you wear Crocs in the kitchen? Would you even wear them gardening?

TM: No, I wear Birkenstocks, and Sanita clogs, depending on how my feet feel that day. Gardening is reserved for flip-flops.

OMC: Would you let me design a chef's jacket for you?

TM: Interesting question, you seem to have a good eye, so I think you could pull it off. I would have to take a look at your ideas.

OMC: What kinds of events do you have on the calendar for LPB this summer? Anything new?

TM: We are doing some French language courses focused on food with Alliance Franciase with a prix fixe menu; they should be cool. On July 8, we have a great Rhone wine maker dinner with Paul Jaboulet Aine.

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