For the fifth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. 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 2011."
I recently had a great conversation with local food pioneer, friend and celebrity chef David Swanson. His on-the-go cooking school is about to have a more permanent residence with the opening of his new restaurant, Braise
Here's what he has to say about it.
OnMilwaukee.com: David, you have been an innovative chef in Milwaukee for many years how would best describe your style of cooking?
Dave Swanson: Seasonal, balanced, simple flavors combined well. American cuisine.
OMC: Who was your biggest influence on your cooking?
DS: Having come up through the ranks in French kitchens with inspiration from masters chefs such as the famous Jean Banchet, those classic French cooking techniques are part of how I cook today, award-winning chef Suzanne Goin â€“ owner of four successful restaurants in L.A. â€“ her very simple approach to food is very unique, Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune restaurant in New York City. Her food is very straightforward, but done very well.
OMC: What cuisine excites you the most?
DS: It depends if I'm cooking it or eating it. If I'm eating it has to be Mexican food. If I'm cooking I have always been intrigued by Asian culture and cuisine. Vietnamese and Thai are very interesting to me. But far as what I enjoy cooking I really love the American palette. I love learning regional American foods, whether it's Pennsylvania Dutch, Mid-Atlantic, the Southwest, its really kind of nice having those influences there, as well.
OMC: A lot of people have heard about Braise RSA but for those that haven't, can you explain what an RSA is?
DS: RSA stands for Restaurant Supported Agriculture. It's collaboration between chefs and farmers. It's where a group of chefs can get together to source food locally; it's a great way to bring food in to their restaurants that otherwise they would have a difficult time finding.
The great thing about it allows the chefs to communicate efficiently with the farmers to specialize their needs. Chefs can partake in the process of what produce is grown to their specific needs. We are not a purveyor, but more of a liaison in establishing these relationships between chefs and farmers.
OMC: These are very exciting times for you; tell us about your new restaurant.
DS: It is a continuation of what I have done in the past of things I have done with my traveling culinary school. Where we teach class in right in the farm field and how to use those ingredients. The restaurant will be using a number of ingredients from 400 different farms in Wisconsin. The menu will be written daily to highlight the best ingredients of the season.
We are going to do things like more nose-to-tail cooking where use all parts of the animal; we'll have an in-house butcher who break down whole animals. And with RSA supporting us it will allow us the ability to work with these farmers on a greater level. We open with dinner service and eventually open for lunch.
We are still under construction but the opening details can be found at our website.
OMC: How does it feel to be your own boss?
DS: I'm completely fine with that. I left Sanford's in 2004 so I have been my own boss since then, with running the traveling school and the RSA I have had the opportunity to work out those personal demons. It's nice, everybody has their own take on Wisconsin cuisine and it's nice to have that creative freedom to do that.
OMC: Is fine dining dead?
DS: There are two aspects to that. One is there is such a resurgence of the cooks as opposed to the chefs. There are so many good cooks today that you don't really need to go to a white tableclothed restaurant to find good food these days. Whereas 20 years ago that was the only place you could go to find a good meal. Finding good food these days is a lot easier than before.
The resurgence of the cook and people who want to learn the trades have made a reconnection with our food. That's actually our tag line: "Reconnecting with our food."
I don't really see it coming back to the heyday it once was, there a lot of other things than just the food itself especially with the socio-economic issues, I don't see them coming back; starched white tablecloths, the maitre'd and sommeliers days are gone. But, I don't think quality food and quality service will ever go out of style.
OMC: Are there any food trends you want to kick off with your new restaurant?
DS: I really hope to establish regional Wisconsin cuisine, to define what that means and to highlight the many different areas of this state. I want people to reconnect with where their food comes from and showcase that good quality food still exists.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Jason Gorman
Published June 29, 2012
Rehorst has been producing some fantastic local spirits for quite some time. Jason Gorman recently met with founder Guy Rehorst to shake, stir and pick his brain about his passion.
Published June 22, 2012
In case you missed it, Tory Miller - Madison chef, restaurateur and lover of all culinary things Wisconsin - brought home the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Midwest region this year. Jason Gorman recently had the chance to catch up with him and asked him to share some of his insight.
Published June 4, 2012
Last year I was a featured guest chef at an amazing dinner pairing chefs with the next generation of Wisconsin cheese makers and I had the pleasure of meeting LaClare Farms' award-winning cheese maker Katie Hedrich. I recently caught up with Katie to ask her about all things in the world of cheese.
Published May 12, 2012
One of the remarkable things about Nate is not only his genuine love of wine, but he is always engaged in the constant pursuit of enlightenment, not for himself but to share with others. Jason Gorman recently had some time to sit and ask him about his perspective on all things wine.
Published May 2, 2012
I met director and creator of "Wisconsin Foodie" Arthur Ircink several years ago and was fortunate enough to work with him in the first season of the show. I recently caught up with him to ask him about his ideas, inspirations and some recommendations.
Published April 12, 2012
There are so many different ways to cook asparagus. Most people enjoy grilling, sauteing or even topping it with a poached egg. Well, I thought you might enjoy a Wisconsin-inspired recipe on what to do with asparagus, as the market season is about to begin.
Published April 2, 2012
It seems spring hasn't fully committed yet, but we are starting to see some local spring green garlic. Pinehold Gardens, run by farmers David Kozlowski and Sandra Raduenzis, is already harvesting some. Treat yourself to a spring-inspired soup with a special recipe featuring this flavorful ingredient.
Published March 27, 2012
Barry Estabrook is a two-time winner of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards for food writing. His first, for a gourmet feature about labor abuses in Florida's tomato fields, led to his acclaimed book "Tomatoland," about how industrial agriculture has ruined one of America's favorite foods.
Published March 13, 2012
I'll admit it: I have a sweet tooth, much to my chagrin. This past week I was grocery shopping, picking up some basics and longing for the markets to start up again, when behold - I stumbled upon a new product that just came out: WhoNu cookies!
Published Feb. 27, 2012
This week I'd like to pose a question: When dining out, if there is something you don't care for, do you tell your server? Do you give the restaurant a chance to reconcile the situation?