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Back in 2001 when Bay View was just starting to buzz with social activity, Sarah Jonas and Cameryne Roberts decided to take a shot in their own neighborhood and open a restaurant in the former George Webb's location on Howell Avenue.
Now, nearly eight years later, after a huge expansion and menu changes and additions throughout the years, these two female chefs are looking at expanding their horizons to Wauwatosa, where they are hoping to create a neighborhood restaurant in Juniper61 that will reflect Tosa's vibe as well as Lulu Café and Bar reflects Bay View.
Jonas is a graduate of both MATC's culinary arts and restaurant management programs; she spent four years at Slim McGinn's as the lead line cook and another three years at Crawdaddy's as the day line cook and saucier.
Roberts earned a bachelor of arts in English from UWM and worked as a public relations executive before she started working in the kitchen at County Clare and attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley on a James Beard scholarship.
OMC: Do you have a signature dish?
Jonas: Asian slaw. It sells like hotcakes around here.
OMC: What do you like most, and least, about your job?
Jonas: Diversity. I like meeting different kinds of people with different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and watching and helping them grow in the kitchen and as people; my least favorite thing is having to discipline employees.
Roberts: I like that every day is different. Restaurant atmosphere is generally convivial, so I like being able to provide a place where I can be the hostess all the time and find balance between good food and good service at a good price and still make a living. The hard times come with the rollercoaster of trying to make sure there's always enough money to pay the bills and pay our staff. Sometimes Sarah and I have to forsake paychecks to make sure everyone else gets paid.
OMC: What are your favorite places to eat out?
Jonas: In Milwaukee, Transfer Pizzeria and Café or Conejitos; in the U.S., there are several places I like in New York City, but I really love Dressler in Brooklyn; in the world, my husband Scott and I always go to Bistro del Mar in Zihuatanejo (Mexico). It's right on the water and they make the best Caesar salad tableside.
Roberts: In Milwaukee, Three Brothers and Umami Moto, but there are so many great places in Milwaukee right now, it's hard to just name a few; in the U.S., brunch at Prune, Craftbar -- Tom Colicchio's place -- and Fatty Crab in New York City; in the world, I once ate this game platter in a game restaurant in South Africa. Yyou order meat by the gram there, so we had this huge platter with boar and springbok and antelope -- and the best wine -- so much better than what we ever get to see here in the United States from South Africa. They have phenomenal wines there.
OMC: Do you have a favorite cookbook?
Jonas: I'm a huge soup fanatic, so any cookbooks with soups. I like anything by James Peterson, and of course, Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
Roberts: I like to cook Asian and ethnic foods, so cookbooks with Asian, Mexican, and South African influences. There's nothing better for Indian cooking than Madhur Jaffrey's "Indian Cooking." And, of course, "The Joy of Cooking."
OMC: Do you have a favorite TV chef?
Jonas: Anthony Bourdain.
Roberts: Julia Child
OMC: What's been the biggest development in the culinary arts over the past 10 years?
Jonas: Organic cooking. Organic farming, cooking with locally grown items; I think that's fantastic.
Roberts: The scientific culinary movement: Molecular Gastronomy. This to me is the most interesting, but it doesn't have any soul. I'd rather have a chicken pot pie than a piece of paper that tastes like a chicken pot pie. But this movement has changed the way chefs cook-for good or bad.
OMC: What kitchen utensil can't you live without?
Jonas: My immersion blender, "the stick." I love to make soups, and the stick is great for pureeing them.
Roberts: A sharp knife. There's just so much you can do with one.
OMC: What's the next big trend in food?
Jonas: I see locally owned, independently run restaurants playing a bigger role than big chain restaurants. They just have more character, more soul. Better products.
Roberts: I think organic is going to continue to flourish; I think people will start eating more seasonally. Seasonal food needs less processing, and calls for simpler preparation. The flavors are more homey and comfortable. Items used properly, in season, just have better flavor.
OMC: What's the toughest day / night to work in the restaurant biz?
Jonas: When you miss a birthday or anniversary on a Friday or Saturday night. We work every weekend, but it's harder when you know you're supposed to be with a spouse or family on a special occasion.
Roberts: Sundays. I hate working Sundays; it's hard to work and hard to get staff in.
OMC: What is your favorite guilty dining pleasure?
Jonas: Chips and dips. Just simple Lays or Jays potato chips with French onion dip.
Roberts: Fritos. And there's nothing better than Taco Bell on a hangover morning.