Chef Jason Gorman presides over one of Milwaukee's most unique, yet best hidden, gourmet restaurants. Nestled behind the bingo tables at Potawatomi Casino, once you open the doors to Dream Dance, you step inside a quiet and understated but extremely high-end dining experience.
The restaurant, which will soon move to a larger, more prominent location at the casino, is exceptionally intimate and serves food that embraces Wisconsin's culinary roots. Most of it is the brainchild of Gorman, a chef who loves food and creating dishes that make the very most of ingredients procured from local farmers.
OMC: What kind of experience and training brought you to Dream Dance?
Gorman: I've been cooking for about 21 years. They were looking for someone with a lot of drive and passion, and a love of food. I fit that bill. I've worked for some great chefs and trained under a Russian chef for about two years. I started when I was about 15 years old. I started as a dishwasher and worked my way up. I actually did not attend any formal training.
OMC: Do you have a signature dish?
JG: Really, I can't stand the thought of a signature dish. To me, I don't want to be pinned down to one dish that I'm known for, because we change our menu four times a year. But if I had to pick a signature dish right now, it would probably be the "lobsterwurst." It's my ode to Wisconsin. What's more Wisconsin that brats and pierogis? I do a lobster bratwurst with mascarpone pierogis and a Tahitian vanilla butter. It's something I can't take off the menu, because guests are like, "put it back on." It's a new direction that we've gone over the last year that's now coming full circle. We call it the "new Wisconsin" cuisine. A lot of local restaurants support local farmers, which we do. But we go one step further and draw inspiration from the city's great culinary history.
OMC: What do you like most, and least, about your job?
JG: What I like the most about my job is the absolute creative freedom I have. This whole "new Wisconsin" thing is something I developed on my own, and I had the creative latitude to go that way. The least thing I like about my job? It's that my restaurant only seats 60, and that's being answered. We're expanding and will have double the capacity.
OMC: What are your favorite places to eat out?
JS: My wife and I go out to the small, ethnic restaurants. We're pretty laid back people. There's this little, hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant on Oakland called Thai Kitchen. The service isn't really the best, but it's totally affordable and it's solid. What they do is consistent. We had a great lunch at Jean Pierre's in Shorewood. Hotch-A-Doo, we go there once in a while. We're not fussy diners. One of the best dinners I had was at Jean-Georges in the Trump Tower in New York City.
OMC: Do you have a favorite cookbook?
JG: One of my favorite books is the "Settlement Cookbook" from 1903. It's from Milwaukee. You look back, and they even had "sequence of service" in this book. It was over 100 years ago and I'm like, wow, they knew how to serve food and prepare things. It's pretty neat, and that's where I draw a lot of my inspiration from.
OMC: Do you have a favorite TV chef?
JG: My first reaction was Gordon Ramsay in the "Kitchen Nightmares" show, because I think it's not over the top.
OMC: What's been the biggest development in the culinary arts over the past 10 years?
JG: It's exposure to the rest of the world. With all the reality shows, the Food Network, the Internet, it's a hot industry right now.
OMC: What kitchen utensil can't you live without?
JG: My Masahiro chef's knife. It's a Japanese, carbon steel, single-sided blade, and I use it for everything.
OMC: What's the next big trend in food?
JG: I'm hoping I'm at the front of the pack, where people cook (food deriving from) in the region that they're in.
OMC: What's the toughest day/night to work in the restaurant biz?
JG: The toughest night is when you're so busy that you're unable to make that personal connection with each guest. It's a "good tough" problem. Everyone wants to be packed.
OMC: What is your favorite guilty dining pleasure?
JG: A Solly's butter burger. I think they're the best.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.