By Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor Published Nov 14, 2011 at 4:01 PM Photography: Damien Jaques

Brad Clark has hit every rung on the career ladder leading up to his recent appointment as executive chef of Stubby's Pub & Grub.

At 14, he was cleaning Clifford's Supper Club in Hales Corners. At 15, he was working at Culver's. At 16, it was Boston Market.

Clark became a short order cook at Bunkers old location in West Allis when he was 17. After that, his credits include line cook at Crawdaddy's, the Elm Grove Inn, Sticks & Stones and Jerry's Old Town Inn in Germantown.

The Muskego native was a saucier at Ristorante Bartolotta, the opening chef de cuisine at Miller Parkway Pub and Grill, and the executive chef when Bunkers opened in its current West Allis location. In that position, Clark got Bunkers on lists of the Milwaukee area's best restaurants.

It's a hefty resume for a fellow much closer to 30 than 40. There have been periods in the chef's life when he has been cooking at two different jobs at the same time. "For some reason I'm not happy unless I am working 70 hours a week," he says with a typically slow grin.

Clark's task at Stubby's, a member of the Zarletti Restaurant Group, is to revive a kitchen that opened with a wow when the restaurant and bar debuted in August 2010, but later sagged into mediocrity. The original concept combined a sports bar with a menu that emphasized barbecue and Southern roadhouse food.

The bar, with 53 beers on tap, arcade games and numerous large TV screens, remains loud and sporty. A menu that was installed shortly before Clark's arrival a month ago broadened the dining focus to include such diverse items as Banh-Mi ($9.95), and a black bean and chorizo sub ($8.95).

The new executive chef decided to tweak rather than overhaul the menu, and his method involved focusing on specific days. Friday was his first target.

Clark introduced five fresh fish specials to accompany the traditional Friday fish fry, and those specials are, well, special. "I don't want to do tuna and salmon, because everybody does that," he explains.

Last week he offered pan seared scallops and pork bellies braised in sauvignon blanc with horseradish infused maple syrup, on a bed of fingerling potatoes with green beans. The dish, priced at $15.95, was finished with a savory caramel sauce.

Clark was unsure of the reception his creation would receive from customers. "It's easy for a new chef to train a staff," he says. "It's hard to train customers to try unusual things."

To Clark's somewhat surprised delight, the scallops and pork bellies entree sold out. Expect to see walu, a Hawaiian fish; northern, perch, blue gills and trout on the list of Friday specials. The chef's favorite swimming creature to deep fry is skate wing, a member of the shark family.

Weekend brunch at Stubby's got an entirely new look a few days ago. The restaurant formerly offered its entire menu with the addition of some breakfast items during the brunchy hours of Saturday and Sunday. That didn't pass muster with Clark.

"I love going to brunch," he says. "It is usually a more relaxed time, when you can sit and talk." That deserves its own exclusive menu, in Clark's opinion.

Some of the items are eye popping. Stubby's Donuts (five for $4 or 10 for $7) are home made and served with peanut butter creme anglaise and raspberry sauce.

Pancakes with drunken berries ($8.95) features seasonal berries marinated in New Glarus Raspberry Tart beer, home made whipped cream, and a choice of bacon, sausage or tater tots. The blue cheese, spinach and artichoke omelet ($9.25) comes with the same choices and includes artichoke creme fraiche.

The tenderloin benedict ($13.95) consists of a couple of 3-oz. grilled beef tenderloin medallions served atop grilled portabella mushrooms and poached eggs, and finished with a Sriracha hollandaise sauce.

As an exclamation point to the foodie cred Clark has brought to Stubby's, he is whipping up a five course, five beers and ciders Thanksgiving dinner Friday night that will feature Central Waters Brewing Company and Crispin super premium natural hard apple cider products. The dinner will include house-made pork cracklings; organic kuri squash bisque; confit turkey leg with bone marrow polenta, organic arugula and brown buter vinaigrette; charred-pear stuffed New Zealand venison loin with espresso and cocoa foam, and foie gras creme brulee.

The cost is $50 for a single, and $90 for a couple.

I asked the executive chef a few personal questions.

OMC: Your favorite restaurant?

Clark: Three Brothers.

OMC: Your favorite food?

Clark: I love bread with sea salt and some really good butter.

OMC: Best thing about being a chef?

Clark: Freedom of expression.

OMC: Worst thing about being a chef?

Clark: The hours.

OMC: Do you cook at home?

Clark: No. I'm never home at night, and it's hard to cook for a 6-year-old. She wants grilled cheese every day. (Clark also has a newborn son.)

OMC: Do you watch any of the television cooking shows?

Clark: "Hell's Kitchen" on DVD. It is the completely uncut version, and it cracks me up.

Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor

Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.

During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.

Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.