There’s no shortage of articles and television shows that showcase the dishes that chefs love to cook at their restaurants. But, what do they love to eat at the end of their exhausting 16 hour days? Or on their days off?
In this series, we ask Milwaukee area chefs to share their favorite dishes -- both from area restaurants and for eating at home. In this edition, we talked with Chef Nell Benton of The National Cafe. Benton will be among eight featured chefs at the upcoming 3rd Annual Moveable Feast event at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Benton has spent a lifetime cultivating an appreciation for global cuisine. She was born in Santa Monica, California. But, she grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lived in a home adjacent to that of former Green Bay quarterback, Brett Favre. As a child, she spent her summers in England, visiting her grandmother. Since graduating from college, she has lived and worked across the world, volunteering in Indonesia, garnering ramen expertise in Japan, earning her culinary degree in Florida and teaching cooking classes in Thailand. Her love for international dishes is reflected not only in some of the food she serves at The National Cafe, but also in some of her favorite dishes.
Amilinda’s piri piri chicken
"One thing I love about the piri piri chicken is that Chef Gregory Leon isn’t afraid to make the dish as spicy as it should be. So many chefs dumb down spice, and he doesn’t. The dish is bold, flavorful and true to its roots."
Rice N Roll’s panang curry
"I’m obsessed with this dish. It’s the perfect blend of flavors. One of the things they do that really makes a difference is they use fresh lime leaves in it, which is essential to curry. It’s also so beautifully presented."
Irie Zulu’s jerk chicken
"Again, Yollande Deacon is someone else who’s not scared of the spice. The chicken is always tender and perfectly done. And the service there is amazing. I think a lot of the staff are family. They love what they do, and that really shows. It’s a unique experience in Milwaukee."
Ultimate comfort food
"My comfort food is the full English breakfast with traditional bangers and bacon from Bernie’s Fine Meats, tomato, mushrooms, eggs, toast and… the thing that binds it altogether is baked beans. I grew up eating it, partly because my mother is English. But, it’s also what you eat when you’re in England, and we spent a good deal of time there as a family. I have that at night all the time. I get home late from catering or whatever and that’s what I make."
Incidentally, you can get a taste of Nell's favorite comfort food at the National Cafe, where the full English breakfast is a regular on the breakfast menu.
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.