Just in time to welcome the warmer weather and the opening of The Yard, there’s another new face at the helm in the kitchen at The Iron Horse Hotel.
Born and raised in Michigan, 37-year-old Grant Slauterbeck relocated to the Windy City, where he’s made a name for himself – and his food – at places like One North Kitchen and Bar, Glenview House and D.O.C. Wine Bar. He’s also worked with the likes of Steve Chiappetti at Rhapsody and Mossant Bistro, and John Hogan at Keefer’s.
Add to that variety the fact that in 2006 he opened a 40,000-square foot bowling, bocce and eatery called Pinstripes. Slauterbeck has wide-ranging experience to help guide his work at the Iron Horse.
We asked him about his past, about the Iron Horse and more.
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell us about about yourself, personally. You're from Detroit, right?
Grant Slauterbeck: I was born in Ann Arbor – the same town I would go to college in. I was raised in and around southwest Detroit until I left for the University of Michigan. I was pursuing a music degree and quickly decided I was not going to be able to have the level of life I envisioned in that particular field so I chose another, washing dishes. (Laughs)
I left Ann Arbor in 2001 for Chicago and have been there ever since. I live in Old Irving with my beautiful and amazing wife Jill and incredible amazing stepdaughter Allison.
OMC: What does a Grant Slauterbeck menu typically look like?
GS: My menu typically consists of two to four dishes I bring with me everywhere. I then complete the menu with simply stated but relatively complex dishes. I like to think my food is interactive and social. Understated and over-delivered. That’s borrowed from a new friend of mine.
OMC: How did you land at the Iron Horse?
GS: I landed at the Iron Horse Hotel by word of mouth. This industry is an extremely small world which is why its important do have character and be damn good at what you do. Michael Falkenstein contacted a former executive chef of a hotel he was at in Chicago a few years back. After a one-hour-plus phone call from the director of food and beverage and a couple tastings, here I am!
OMC: What do you like most, and least, about your job?
GS: The management team at the Iron Horse Hotel is so incredibly talented and energetic. There is a constant stream of ideas that are twisted a bit and morphed and put into existence through the thoughts of all of us. It is indeed an incredible exchange. Believe it or not, I don't have a least favorite yet.
OMC: Now that you're here are you planning to overhaul the menu or will you take more of a wait and see approach?
GS: The menu has been completely overhauled. What a turnaround!
OMC: Do you have any favorite places yet to eat out in Milwaukee?
GS: I have heard many suggestions and opinions about where I should be at. As soon as I get an evening that end relatively early I do plan on eating and drinking my way around Milwaukee.
OMC: Do you have a favorite cookbook?
GS: "The French Laundry Cookbook" (Thomas Keller and Deborah Jones) and (Julia Child’s) "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." I also don't jump anywhere without (Andrew Dornenburg’s) "Culinary Artistry," a great reference book and read.
OMC: Do you have a favorite TV or celebrity chef?
GS: Thomas Keller, Charlie Palmer, Joel Robuchon, Grant Achatz and a older gentleman named Walter Love from Ypsilanti, Mich., who taught me an immense amount in his jeans and T-shirt, teeth missing from years of sweets, and a cook by way of the D. Even though he’s not a chef, he inspired me to be one and that means the world to me.
OMC: What's been the biggest development in the culinary arts over the past 10 years?
GS: I firmly believe the emergence of media and social media regarding the culinary world. So many of our old tricks and secrets have been exposed just by outlets containing the knowledge. Social media hot spots like Yelp also keep the pressure on.
OMC: What kitchen utensil can't you live without?
GS: My Bennigan’s cup. It is a 24-ounce green tumbler I found in the first kitchen I ever worked at. I take it to every new restaurant. I have told the story probably 300-plus times. Best part is I’ve never worked or eaten at a Bennigan’s. (Laughs)
OMC: What's the next big trend in food?
GS: I'll have to think on that one.
OMC: What's the toughest day / night to work in the restaurant biz?
GS: The toughest day is when you're short-staffed. Day of the week? Friday. Saturday is usually just as busy but at least that day I know when service concludes I have tomorrow off, the only day of the week. Hopefully, of course! (Laughs)
OMC: What is your favorite guilty dining pleasure?
GS: Hot dogs. Not even a close second available.
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.