4 Local Chefs on Their Favorite Dishes and Cooking Inspiration


Which dish on your restaurant menu are you most proud of? 

Chef Karen Bell,  Bavette la Boucherie


“I tend to do Spanish-inspired octopus dishes – they traditionally serve octopus with potato, so I had an idea to have a crispy potato element to it. We spiral potatoes and wrap the octopus in it. The octopus has been previously slow-cooked so that it’s tender and then marinated and seasoned before wrapping in the potatoes. To order, it’s fried so that the potatoes are crispy and the octopus is still tender. I wasn’t sure this would work when I had the idea and was happy that it did.” 


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Chef Kyle Knall, Birch


“It’s this idea of a Mexico City-inspired dish but using all ingredients from Wisconsin. [In a recent preparation,] half the fish had a rub made from Autumn Frost squash. We took the trim from when we were cutting up the squash, fermented it and made it into a paste. The other half had a rub from poblano peppers from Jerry [Wagner, a produce farmer in New Berlin]. It’s also just a really fun dish to eat. You build your own tacos with the fish, our tortillas and a salsa that changes.” 

What’s inspiring you as a chef right now?

Chef Kristen Schwab, The Wolf on Broadway

“My whole dad’s side of the family is Indonesian, so getting to explore with those flavors is something that’s always interested me, but I didn’t really have my own outlet except for running specials [at her previous job] at DanDan. I’m getting to just dig really deep and develop my own sambal [chile paste] spices, and Indonesian warming spices are in
the background of a lot my dishes.” 

Chef Dan Jacobs, EsterEv and DanDan 

“For me, it’s nurturing these young chefs and giving them opportunities and chances to express themselves. The kids that are sous chefs now, in five to 10 years they’re going to be the people that are me 10 years ago. It’s really fun to work with a sous chef, and gently guide them toward what they want to cook.” 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s March issue.

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