Milwaukee is filled with amazing people. And some of those people are wild about food. 8 Questions is a series that focuses on food lovers in our midst. They aren’t chefs. They don’t work in the food industry. But, they know a thing or two about eating. And that’s part of what makes them awesome.
Derek Mosley is – quite possibly – Milwaukee’s favorite municipal court judge. He’s also an exceedingly popular choice for Milwaukeeans who are looking for a judge to perform their marriage ceremony. In fact, on average, he officiates about 50 weddings per year.
But, Mosley is also one of the city’s most avid eaters. He regularly posts his culinary adventures to his personal Facebook page, sharing photos of meals eaten at a wide variety of Milwaukee spots – from small ethnic restaurants and cafes, to high end fine dining restaurants.
Originally from the south side of Chicago, Mosley is a die-hard White Sox fan. But – despite his baseball allegiances – he’s a huge fan of Milwaukee, the city he now calls home.
He initially moved here to attend law school at Marquette University – a career he says he pursues largely to inspiration he drew from movies and television.
"It’s a little embarrassing," he admits. "The first time it happened was when I saw ‘Silence of the Lambs.’"
The movie inspired him to pursue a job working for the FBI in Washington D.C. during the summer before he started law school. From there, he took inspiration from "A Few Good Men," – a movie that tempted him to pursue a law position on the Fort Carson military base in Colorado Springs.
"Ultimately, I was allergic to bullets," he says. "So, I decided to pursue something outside of the area of military law."
Instead – inspired by the popular television show "Law & Order" – he decided to become a criminal prosecutor.
"Based on my trajectory, If I were growing up today, I’d probably be a CSI agent," he remarks with a chuckle.
After finishing law school – where he met his wife, Kelly – Mosley took a job as the Assistant District Attorney for Milwaukee County, a job he kept for about eight years before taking the next logical step, accepting an appointment in 2002 appointed as Milwaukee municipal court judge for Branch 2, a position he’s been elected to every four years since.
Mosley, who enjoys both fishing and snowmobiling at his cottage up north, says he also loves the State Fair. But, likely to the surprise of many Milwaukeeans, he doesn’t get the hype surrounding the cream puffs (what?!).
"They’re OK," he admits. "But, they’re just not anything special."
Fortunately, cream puffs are about the only food Mosley doesn’t love.
OnMilwaukee.com: What inspired your love of food?
Derek Mosley: I was always a big kid, and I’ve always loved to eat. My mom cooked every day, and when she threw down, it was awesome. She made the best fried chicken. Kids I didn’t even know would ask to come over for dinner, it was so good.
I came from a from a family where we ate everything from the ruta to the toota, from the snout to the butt. We didn’t waste much food. Ears, snout, tongue. We ate it all.
OMC: Do you cook? If so, what are some of your favorite things to make?
DM: I don’t cook a lot, but when I do, I cook the same way as my mom. Every now and again, my wife will let me cook southern – fried chicken, collard greens and mac and cheese…
Speaking of mac and cheese, I was always perplexed when other people told me they were having macaroni and cheese for dinner. It was always a side at our house, never a full meal.
OMC: What’s your favorite dish at a restaurant in Milwaukee?
DM: The sweet breads at Braise – they just melt in your mouth. It’s heaven. If you can get Dave Swanson to make you sweetbreads, do it. Ever since I tried them there, I judge every other sweetbreads dish by the ones I had at Braise.
OMC: How about your favorite Milwaukee restaurant?
DMI actually have multiple ways to answer this question. For instance, if I’m just going to go out and eat on my own. I get much joy bellying up to the bar at Mr. Perkins'. There’s no one funnier to chat with than old black men; and that’s always who’s sitting at the lunch counter. It takes me back to the days of my youth when we ate grits and thick rinded bacon.
If I’m with my family, we’ve been going to Calderone Club Downtown a lot. They do a good, solid job on spaghetti, which the girls like. And it’s just overall good.
Now, if it’s just me and my wife, it’s c.1880. That’s my spot. Chef Thomas Hauck – I’ll eat anything that he makes. The tasting menu with the wine pairings, it’s amazing. You can’t beat it. And it’s such a great place. They make you feel like family. The first two times I was there, Chef Hauck came around with his mom and chatted with us. It was a really nice touch, very personal.
OMC: Do you have any favorite secret food spots?
DM: Well, I really love Pete’s Fruit Market. And Downtown, I love the Tropic Banana. It’s just a guy who rolls out a cart of fruit at North Van Buren. You can buy like 800 pounds of blueberries for like $20.
And the Growing Power cafe. I love that place because it’s the only spot in that neighborhood where you can get a great salad, veggies greens and things that aren’t fried. You can get that great avocado salad for $5.
OMC: Most frustrating thing about Milwaukee?
DM: Aww, that’s probably the same thing everyone says. People get into ruts. They say "Friday we’re going to Kegel’s Inn for fish fry… " And they don’t go anywhere new.
We used to be such a restaurant desert in this city, and now we’re not. So, we need to get out there and support these places. We have world class chefs in this town who picked Milwaukee to practice their trade. And people just need to get out more and really support what’s going on.
OMC: Favorite type of cuisine?
DM: That’s a good question. I don’t know if I have a favorite type. Actually, I like Greek everything. In Chicago, you have Greektown. Man, I’d kill for that lemon rice soup.
I remember when Greek Fest was at the old Greek Orthodox church – that flaming cheese, aaawww. So good.
OMC: What’s your most memorable food adventure?
DM: You know, it might seem cheesy… but, I may have been to more diners, drive-ins and dives than anyone else on the planet.
A buddy and I take a trip for the Final Four every year. We’ve been doing it for probably 12 years. Jonathan Smith – he was my roommate in college – and he’s my bucket list guy. During our trips, we hit up every spot mentioned on a television food show. We’ve been to New Orleans, Houston, Atlanta… I’m like the black Andrew Zimmern. I’ll eat any of that.
We just got back from Indianapolis. That was a short list, but we hit all of them. The pork tenderloin, it was the size of a piece of paper. It was on like this little hamburger bun, so it stuck out the sides. But, it was delicious. A bunch of places had them, so we had to decide which one was best. The one we liked most was at The Aristocrat Pub.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.