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Great Lakes Distillery founder and owner Guy Rehorst shares his wisdom.
Great Lakes Distillery founder and owner Guy Rehorst shares his wisdom.

Five questions with distillery founder Guy Rehorst

Rehorst has been producing some fantastic local spirits for quite some time. I have always been impressed with how they purposely go out of their way to produce things the old-fashioned way.

Last year I was working on a project for which I was tasked to create a homemade tonic. Guy Rehorst was there to assist when I couldn't find any quinine, which is an integral part of the recipe.

I recently spent some time with Guy to shake, stir and pick his brain about his passion.

Jason Gorman: How did you get into the business of creating some of Wisconsin's finest spirits?

Guy Rehorst: I was always into beer, wine and spirits, since I was a home brewer and wine making hobbyist I developed a curiosity about distilled spirits; it seemed like a logical next step. I also realized that while there were lots of great craft breweries and small wineries and you could find their products in so many bars and restaurants, there weren't any small distilleries.

Everything on the shelves was either imported or made at one of a very small handful of distilleries in the U.S. I was wrong, later finding out that there were about 30 small distilleries in the U.S. at that time – most of which were associated with wineries and producing small batches of brandy. There are now more than 400 small distilleries in the U.S.

So, I eventually decided Milwaukee would be a good market – people here really support local in a big way, and in 2006 we opened what was then Wisconsin's only distillery.

JG: What are your thoughts on the mixologist movement? Has it gone overboard?

GR: I love it. They are really talented people who like going the extra mile and are very creative; they need an outlet and their customers are the lucky beneficiaries of that. Most of them are modest and hate the term mixologist, but they are special and not your typical bartender. What they do may not be appropriate for all bars or situations, but when they are in the right place they do magic. …

Chef and James Beard Award winner Tory Miller of Madison's L'Etoile and Graze.
Chef and James Beard Award winner Tory Miller of Madison's L'Etoile and Graze.

Five questions with award-winning Chef Tory Miller

In case you missed it, Tory Miller – Madison chef, restaurateur, lover of all culinary things Wisconsin and my friend – brought home the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Midwest region this year.

I recently had the chance to catch up with him and asked him to share some of his insight.

Jason Gorman: What is it like to be recognized by the James Beard Foundation? How has it impacted your life?

Tory Miller: It's pretty incredible. Winning a Beard Award is like a career dream for chefs. To be recognized by peers and people in this industry is something I never thought would happen to me, but when it happens, it's super intense. It's still sinking in. The impact on my life, though, is that more people call me. But, pretty much the reason why I do what I do is so that we can have these dope restaurants, which take up a lot of my time. So I've pretty much just been working business as usual. But, like I said, it really hasn't sunk in.

JG: Having reached this coveted level in the culinary world, do you feel any pressure to step up your game? Has it raised the expectations from yourself, staff and patrons?

TM: No, I don't think so. I really challenge every member of our staff to perform at a super high level all the time. Our kitchen motto is "Always refuse to be mediocre," so we put that pressure on ourselves every day regardless. Our staff has a pretty large sense of pride in their work, especially at L'Etoile, and definitely my sous chefs were pretty ecstatic when they heard the news. Of course, no chef can do it without their staff, so it's been pretty exciting for everyone.

JG: For those that haven't been to L'Etoile or Graze yet, what can they expect?

TM: At L'Etoile, if you've never been, you can expect service and food that celebrates our region and our season, taking ingredients and really honoring them, and presenting them in a fine dining atmosphere – but a laid-back fine dining atmosphere, if there can be such a thing. No one's gonna kick you o…

Katie Hedrich and one of her "kids."
Katie Hedrich and one of her "kids."

Five questions with award-winning cheese maker Katie Hedrich

Have a cow, man. Why not? After all, it's Dairy Month here at Join us all month long as we explore all things that make you go "Moo" and celebrate America's Dairyland during the Dairy Days of Summer! Brought to you by and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

Last year I was a featured guest chef at an amazing dinner pairing chefs with the next generation of Wisconsin cheese makers and I had the pleasure of meeting LaClare Farms' award-winning cheese maker Katie Hedrich.

Hedrich started making cheese in 2009 and has been blazing a trail since at LaClare Farms, near Chilton.

I recently caught up with Hedrich to ask her about all things in the world of cheese. What is it about making cheese that excites you the most?

Katie Hedrich: I love taking a raw ingredient, the milk, and creating something so unique and delicious. It really intrigues me how a combination of bacteria, cooking temps and technique make or break your cheese.

OMC: With so many styles of cheese and various cheese makers in Wisconsin, how do you find your niche?

KH: I have been blessed with growing up on a goat farm. So I make all goat's milk cheeses. Then I listen to what customers, cheese mongers, chefs and industry professionals want and try to fill the void. Things have really changed in the dairy goat industry over the past 10 years. It was very difficult to even get people to try goat products; now, they are practically begging for them.

OMC: What are some of your favorite styles of cheese?

KH: I am a big fan of aged cheeses – I like cheeses with lots of flavor that can be eaten all by themselves. I am also becoming a blue cheese fan. I really enjoy cooking with blue because it adds so much to the dish.

OMC: What is the future of cheese making look like? And how much do you think technology will impact the industry?

KH: I think the future of cheese making is bright. However, in order for us in the U.S. to continue growing the …

Arthur Ircink is the director and creator of "Wisconsin Foodie."
Arthur Ircink is the director and creator of "Wisconsin Foodie."

Five questions with Arthur Ircink

I met director and creator of "Wisconsin Foodie" Arthur Ircink several years ago and was fortunate enough to work with him in the first season of the show.

His approach to Wisconsin food, restaurants, farmers and local keepers of the "faith" was a completely fresh and new perspective. It's unique in the sense that the show is not funded by advertising dollars. Integrity and objectivity are paramount and that was obvious from the first episode.

I recently caught up with him to ask him about his ideas, inspirations and some recommendations. Compared to newspapers and radio, what is about films that interests you? And how did you get into films?

Arthur Ircink: It's hard to compare those different mediums; I grew up loving the movies and always wanted to be a part of that craft. Newspapers and radio are more objective. I like the subjectivity of film, letting the viewer interpret the story. To me, the best films are the ones that make you think and that is really the goal with Wisconsin Foodie, to make people think about their food choices. I don't look at Wisconsin Foodie as part of the "media;" in my mind each episode is a documentary film that explores a character's story relating to our culinary environment.

When I was a kid my father would take me to the movies every Friday. I found comfort in the theater. Growing up, movies became an escape for me, when the real world gave me a hard time I always knew I had an out. There was a point were I was exposed to different filmmakers like Herzog, the Maysles Brothers, Godard, Begman and Bunuel, [and] at that point I began to look at cinema as art and something I wanted to contribute to.

It can be very complicated to make a film – you need a crew, actors, money, a script, etc. In the early days it was a challenge for me to organize all of that, so I naturally turned to documentary filmmaking, which is something that can be done with a subject and a camera. In the end I am drawn to the storytelling a…