By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 29, 2021 at 10:02 AM Photography: Victor Paredes and Jesus Santos

Two talented Milwaukee chefs are joining forces to bring Milwaukee a new Mexican-inspired experience.

Arnie Gonzales, executive sous chef for Good City Brewing, and Martin Magaña, executive chef at Tess, are the men at the helm of Trouble Makers’ Cocina, a new pop-up concept which fuzes Mexican flavors, local seasonal products, various culinary techniques and unique flavor profiles to create their own unique take on “Mad Mexican” food.

“We’re both so versatile,” says Magaña, “And we bring different skills to the table. So this is about doing something really unique, giving people something that’s always a little unexpected.”

The two will be hosting a series of Trouble Maker’s Cocina pop-ups, including a three course Mad Mexican Beer Dinner at The Sugar Maple, 441 E. Lincoln Ave. on Wednesday, March 31. The pop-up will also feature a special paired dessert by pastry chef Ivan Fernandez (a chef best known for his work with Lambeau Field) and live music from local artist JC Munguia.

Good (and delicious) trouble

The two chefs originally met through their work with Chef Latinos Wisconsin, an organization created to offer Latino/a chefs industry support, increased visibility and a platform to share their culinary stories.

The organization gave the two chefs opportunities to work together, and as they did, a bond developed between them

When the pandemic hit, Gonzales says they initially talked about working together to launch a podcast.

We saw a real need to talk about mental health for cooks and people like us,” says Gonzales.”I mean, I’ve never had  a vacation since I started to be a chef. And, as Latino chefs, so many of us have two or three jobs. And we balance that with being husbands, fathers.”

The two called meetings, hoping to get other chefs to participate. And, although the idea never got off the ground, it cemented their desire to work together. 

They cooked, They hung out. Ultimately, Gonzales says, the joke became, “Let’s go to your kitchen and make some trouble.”

but offers a nod to the curiosity, creativity and mischief they experienced as young boys and are now revisiting with their own children. 

“We have a lot of fun in the kitchen,” says Magaña. “And it’s exciting to think about what we can create by fusing our styles together and making food that’s unexpected, that people haven’t really seen before.”

Gonzales says they’re dipping their toes into the water with pop-ups, but their hope is to launch a Trouble Makers’ Cocina food truck down the road.

“We’ve got our eyes out and are actively looking for a truck that fits our needs,” he says. “But we’re not rushing anything, at this point. We’re working to build the brand right now and show people what we can do.  And then we’ll develop the concept from there.”

In the meantime, he says they’re designing one-of-a-kind pop-up experiences with menus designed based on each unique location. 

“At The Sugar Maple, we’re doing beer pairings,” says Magaña. “But we’re also hoping to showcase mezcal and various cocktails to pair with our food as well.”

Mad Mexican Beer Dinner

The Trouble Maker’s Cocina Mad Mexican Beer Dinner will take place on Wednesday, March 31 at The Sugar Maple in Bay View. Doors open at 5 p.m., with socially-distanced dinner service taking place at 6 p.m.

Courses include: 

  1. Pacific shrimp tinga with pistachio guacamole, tostada, chili oil and lime crema (paired with New Barons The Queen Mexican lager)

  2. Beef birra empanada with green tomatillo chutney, smoked queso fresco mousse and chili oil (paired with Fermentorium 1.0438 Overture ESB)

  3. Roasted pork loin with mole sauce, smoked corn, plantain puree, avocado mousse and roasted rainbow cauliflower (paired with Vintage Weiss Nix Hefeweizen)

  4. Cannoli churro with carrot ricotta filling, vanilla bean fluff, dulce de leche sauce and amini macaron (paired with McFleshman’s Triple Debacle Dopplebock)

Moving forward, Trouble Maker’s Cocina will be hosting two more pop-ups at The Sugar Maple in April and May and hope to partner with other venues to create a variety of unique events.  Follow The Trouble Maker’s Cocina Mad Mexican Food on Facebook for all the delicious details.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.