When the Coerper family sold the Five O'Clock Steakhouse, 2416 W. State St., a few years back -- after a half-century in the business -- Executive Chef Rich Alvarado stayed on in the kitchen.
The result is that despite the change in name (Coerper's is no longer part of the moniker) and change in ownership, the steak remains the same.
And that steak has earned raves from the likes of the much-respected Saveur magazine and, most recently, television's Rachael Ray. And you, dear readers, have named the restaurant Milwaukee's best steakhouse for the past two years running.
Our own Amy Schubert raved, too, in 2007, writing, "Food at the club is still fantastic, and the trademark au jus and charred-on-the-outside, cooked-to-perfection-on-the-inside aged steaks remain butter tender. Appetizers, too, are delicious."
We asked Alvarado about himself, his experience and the dining scene in this latest chef profile.
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell us a bit about yourself. Are you a Milwaukee native?
Rich Alvarado: Yes I was born in Milwaukee. I went to Milwaukee Tech High School, graduated class of 1986 with a cabinet making diploma. I'm married to my wife Julie 11 years, (and we have a) daughter Sophie 6, and (a) son Ryan 3. (We) own a home in Oak Creek.
OMC: What kind of experience and training brought you to Five O'Clock?
RA: I got my first job at 15 slinging chili dogs for Mike Syrakos at Coney Island Hot Dogs on 5th & National, after school and Saturdays. After that, my brother John got me a job at Nantucket Shores in the Astor Hotel washing dishes in 1986. Worked my way up through the salad deptartment, then (as a) line cook.
(I) trained under Chefs Scott Kimpfbeck, Mike Saglin and Sous Chef Pat Clark. When I left in 1993, I was running the kitchen. From there I started only the third job of my life, working as Chef Ron Geffen's assistant at Coerper's 5 O'Clock Club . He was gone after about 10 months and for the last 15 years, I've been the Chef.
OMC: Do you think that all of the national acclaim that your restaurant gets forces you to hold yourself to a higher standard than other places in town?
RA: First of all yes, but second of all, we've always tried to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
OMC: Do you have a signature dish?
RA: Not really. I like to cook all kinds of food.
OMC: What do you like most, and least, about your job?
RA: What I like the most is our customers' enthusiasm before and after their meal. They're so excited to be there. What I like least about my job is that our weekdays aren't busier.
OMC: What are your favorite places to eat out in Milwaukee?
RA: Maxie's Southern Comfort, Sobleman's, Benji's Deli, El Rey and The Packing House.
OMC: Do you have a favorite cookbook?
RA: I don't really have a favorite cookbook, but I like stealing ideas of the Internet -- Epicurious and Simply Recipes.
OMC: Do you have a favorite TV or celebrity chef?
RA: Jacques Pepin is the master. I also like Alton Brown because he's an educator.
OMC: What's been the biggest development in the culinary arts over the past 10 years?
RA: Cooking only great steaks over the last 15 years, I've been out of the loop.
OMC: What kitchen utensil can't you live without?
RA: My tongs. They stir, they pick up and scoop like an extension of my arm.
OMC: What's the next big trend in food?
RA: Probably with today's economy discount / economy dining. BOGOs (buy one, get one) and coupons, unfortunately.
OMC: What's the toughest day / night to work in the restaurant biz?
RA: Without a doubt Mondays. Thank God we're closed.
OMC: What is your favorite guilty dining pleasure?
RA: Foie Gras. My friend Brandon Wolff made a killer Napoleon with apples and foie gras at Dream Dance a few years back.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.