From lacrossetribune.com: “Western grad following farm-to-table dreams” — Josh Powell has a vision. One day, he wants to be in the kitchen of his own restaurant. A customer might compliment his pork chops and ask where they came from, “and I can just point west,” Powell said.

And then, he’ll say something like: “See that pasture with those six hogs?”

After more than a decade in the culinary arts, the 32-year-old La Crosse native went back to school to learn more about the meat and vegetables that end up in his kitchen. Powell begins an internship at Organic Valley on Monday after graduating from Western Technical College’s agri-business science technology program.

“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” Powell said. “There were a couple times where I really thought about, ‘Is this the right idea?’ ”

Powell is one of 1,136 graduates who will be honored at 2 p.m. today at Western’s spring commencement ceremony in the La Crosse Center. College officials will grant 527 associate degrees and 242 technical diplomas, with 321 students graduating from Western’s certified nursing assistant program.

Powell’s Western degree marks his second spin at college. He also studied the culinary arts at Fox Valley Technical College, but he realized about two years ago that he needed to return to the world of higher education to realize his dream.

Powell wants to own a farm-to-table restaurant — a place that mixes modern cooking with “old-school” butchering, Powell said.

“I think butchering is kind of a dying art,” Powell said. “People don’t eat heart. People don’t eat liver. People don’t eat kidneys.”

Powell was the type of student who always added to the conversation in his classes at Western — often to talk about his favorite food, said Tracy Harper, an instructor and department head.

“Lots of discussions about bacon,” Harper said. “Every class.”

Powell’s passion for food was obvious, and it was infectious, Harper said.

His love for food dates back to the baked goods served up by his grandma and aunt. He wouldn’t settle for anything that wasn’t as tasty as his grandma’s cuisine, Powell said.

He started brushing up on his skills with different ingredients. About 12 years ago, he got a job at Syl’s Place, a Barre Mills supper club. Powell worked in the kitchen and behind the bar.

“Pouring drinks wasn’t really my thing,” Powell said. “I like playing with fire.”

He also has worked in kitchens at the La Crosse Country Club and restaurants in the Green Bay area.

“I was pretty lucky in my 12 years in the kitchen,” Powell said.

He was the executive chef at Pogreba in La Crosse but relinquished that title when he went back to school.

An unfortunate incident with a mechanical bull forced Powell to focus on his transition from cooking to agriculture. Nursing an injured elbow — compliments of the bull — Powell took two months off to focus on his studies.

Now, he’s back where he started, at Syl’s, but the horizon is completely changed. Western instructors and the people he met there have given him the ability to pursue his goals. They taught him things he could never have learned in the small garden of his childhood home on the North Side, Powell said.

He and some of his friends are raising livestock and testing recipes on family and friends, but Powell is focused on Organic Valley, where he’ll work this summer as an intern in the quality assurance department.

“Between a couple of my buddies, we’ve got to find a plan,” Powell said. “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right.”

From postcrescent.com: “Fox Valley Celiacs bringing in gluten-free chef for demonstrations” — Rebecca Reilly used to skip school to stay home and cook.

“That was the time Julia Child and Graham Kerr were on television, and I was in a family where we did all the cooking,” the Massachusetts chef said. “My mother had three girls, and we were responsible for cooking because she was working, too.”

As an adult, the kitchen remained a safe haven for Reilly.

“The world was safe as long as I had my apron on,” she said.

Reilly is a classically French-trained chef with more than 20 years in signature cafés and high-end kitchens as head chef, sous chef, pastry chef and menu consultant. She also is nationally recognized as a gluten-free chef, instructor, author and food coach.

The latter is the result of learning in the mid-’90s that she, her daughter and her son all have celiac disease.

Fox Valley Celiacs support group has partnered with the Fox Valley Technical College culinary arts program to bring Reilly, author of the bestselling cookbook, “Gluten Free Baking,” to Appleton on April 5. Reilly will teach gluten-free breads and desserts from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and gluten-free homemade pasta and simple meals from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Each session is $10.

Culinary arts students from FVTC will offer a gluten-free lunch between sessions for $8. Vendor booths offering gluten-free products in their stores will provide information, coupons and samples.

“The board of the Fox Valley Celiac Support Group is thrilled to be hosting chef Rebecca here in Appleton,” board member Rebecca Mailand said. “By partnering with Fox Valley Technical College culinary arts program, we were able to make this a reality. Festival Foods has been a huge help as well by providing us with the ingredients chef Rebecca will use during her sessions. In addition, Festival Foods as well as Happy Bellies Bake Shop, the Free Market and Bulk Priced Foods will have vendor booths at the event.”

For Reilly, learning about celiac disease started with her son, now 22.

“My son was very sickly,” she said. “As a 5-year-old he couldn’t even walk across a basketball (court) without someone picking up and carrying him. And he couldn’t breathe. He was an emotional, physical mess.”

While allergy prick tests showed no sensitivity to gluten, blood work did.

Feeding her son gluten-free foods transformed not only his life, it also helped Reilly’s irritable bowel and made her daughter’s migraine headaches disappear.

“My son was a gift. I look at him as my gift to heal all three of us,” she said.

Reilly said she loves teaching people how to make flexible and delicious breads and pizza and more with alternative grains.

“People go, ‘Oh, my god. I can do this. I can have pumpernickel. I can have focaccia. I can have, I can have, I can have,’” she said. “When people take my class, it transforms their lives. … I am not about recipes. I’m about teaching you how to make it.”

From sheboyganpress.com: “Youth apprentices find positions with local companies” – Nick Steenwyk, of Sheboygan, is a computer aided design drafter in the bathing group for Kohler Company in Kohler. Like most CAD drafters, he performs tasks such as working with Creo software to create models and drawings of whirlpools.

Unlike most CAD drafters, Nick is currently a high school student at Sheboygan Christian High School. Through the youth apprenticeship program at Lakeshore Technical College, Steenwyk began working at Kohler Company.

“The best part of my YA experience has been working in a career field I’m interested in pursuing,” Steenwyck said in a news release. “Not only am I able to pick up skills and techniques that with be invaluable in years to come, my experience has been a tremendous help in determining a career field I want to enter.”

Steenwyk is not alone in Sheboygan County when it comes to Youth Apprenticeship. The Lakeshore Technical College Youth Apprenticeship program recently completed their annual Information Nights for high school students interested in the 2014-15 Youth Apprenticeship program. For the third consecutive year, the Sheboygan County Youth Apprenticeship program is seeing large increases in both student apprentices and employer participation.

Representatives from employers like Nemak, Rockline, Blue Harbor and Wigwam also are working with students.

Youth apprenticeship offers students the opportunity to explore future careers while they are still in high school and get paid for their time working at area employers. Youth apprenticeship offers one- and two-year programs in fields like health, hotel and hospitality, culinary, finance, mechanical design, welding and manufacturing.

The Sheboygan youth apprenticeship program has grown rapidly in the past few years, from 11 students in 2010-11 to 32 students in 2011-12. The program swelled to 68 students in the current school year. It’s expected that number will rise to 85 for next school year.

For more information on the LTC youth apprenticeship program, contact Jill Preissner at 920-693-1261 or jill.preissner@gotoltc.edu.

From onmilwaukee.com: “Pastry Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer: Through the eyes of an apprentice” — World renowned pastry chef Jacquey Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School and author of the new book “The Art of French Pastry,” has won countless accolades for his tireless pursuit of perfection in pastry.

He has also been recognized for his exceptional mentorship, which he has extended to dozens of pastry students from Wisconsin. Some, like Chef Kurt Fogle of SURG Restaurant Group, who Pfeiffer mentions by name as a star pupil, have gone on to make their own marks on the world of pastry.

On January 12, Fogle and a team of some of the city’s finest culinary talent – including Chefs Justin Carlisle of Ardent, Matt Haase of Rocket Baby Bakery, Andrew Miller of Hom Woodfired Grill and Jarvis Williams of Carnevor — will host a dinner honoring Pfeiffer. The five course dinner will serve as a celebration of his life, his work, and his new book.

The menu is being kept under wraps, but Fogle says each chef will be pulling out the stops in an effort to pay homage to Pfeiffer.

“We all work together, and we’re all a little competitive,” Fogle remarks, “So, you know everyone is bringing their A-game. There’s something–without trying to sound like too much of a weirdo — about watching five guys really going for it. To be a person in the room experiencing those dishes.”

Fogle has a particular investment in the dinner, since Pfeiffer was a key influencer in setting the direction of his career.

During his tenure with Pfeiffer, Fogle was one of very few Americans who had the privilege of taking part in the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition (Best Craftsmen in France), a competition captured in the documentary, “Kings of Pastry.”

NPR’s Ella Taylor remarked, “Kings of Pastry is about the craft, the teaching and learning, the collaborative work, the tedium, the heartbreak and emotional backbone it takes to make something lovely, even if that something is destined to disappear down a gullet in seconds — and even if the maker ends up a noble failure.”

“The whole damn experience was indelible,” Fogle says. “Working with Pfeiffer was two years of just having my mind blown day after day. And it was exhausting. Nothing will ever be harder than that. Nothing. I’m going to continue to challenge and push myself, but that’s the highest level.”

Working together created a professional and personal bond between the two chefs. Fogle says Pfieffer continued to be his mentor even after he left Chicago. In fact, it was Pfieffer who encouraged Fogle to move back to his home state of Wisconsin after completion of the competition.

“Since I was 15 working at O&H Danish Bakery in Racine, I had a passion for this part of the culinary world, and Pfeiffer encouraged me to come back and see where I could enhance pastry here,” he says.

He credits Pfeiffer with launching his career, as well as setting the direction for his art.

“To sum it up,” Fogle tells me, “He’s one of the best pastry chefs on the planet, and in turn I’m one of the luckiest apprentices to walk the planet.”

He went on to talk about some of the things he took away from his experience.

“I don’t want to say I didn’t learn to cook from him,” Fogle explains. “But what I really learned is how to think, how to be organized. He didn’t teach me how to bake, he taught me how to think.”

And for Fogle, part of that experience was learning that he could do anything to which he set his mind.

“One of the first things you learn from him is that anything is possible, because if it’s impossible we’re just going to create a technique or a tool or a trick to make it happen,” he tells me. “It wasn’t how to hold a spatula and fold mousse. It was the commitment and philosophical aspect I gained – learning to be tenacious and resourceful so that when I get out into the real world… when I don’t have a proofer or a sheeter– and I have an oven with hotspots hotter than Mercury — that I could still put out a great croissant.”

Fogle, who has known Pfeiffer since 2006, says he’s more than just a great teacher and pastry chef.

“He’s really really good at foozeball and ping-pong,” Fogle goes on. “Like he makes me feel bad about even playing against him.”

But, Fogle says his gentle disposition is what really makes Pfeiffer exceptional.

“In all the time I’ve known him, he’s never raised his voice,” he explains. “He’s the sort of guy who just makes you want to do things better – whether it’s pastry or what it is… he just never loses any steam. He’s ok going back and back and back and making things better and better. That’s really what rubbed off the most.”

Fogle, who teaches part-time at MATC in their culinary department, says he learned a great deal about teaching from Pfeiffer.

“I think the most important thing that I learned from him is that you have to be patient, and you have to let people struggle through it… a good example is that he was trying to teach me how to pipe something. I was struggling with holding the bag and not moving it. A couple of years later I realized I was doing it properly. But, I don’t know when it happened. He instilled in the idea that you just need to do it and do it again.”

So, when he teaches, Fogle says he always keeps that in mind.

“The fact is, I can’t talk you into being a good pastry chef, and I can’t make you into a great chef. But, I can be there for you and work with you and help you get there.”

Sounds like the sort of teacher we’d all love to have had.

From bizjournals.com: “Shorewood chef wins MATC kitchen entrepreneur challenge” — Marcus Thie from Shorewood has been named winner of the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge for his concept Sauceformations, a line of organic sauces.

The finalists were judged at a tasting event which took place last week at Cuisine, the student-run restaurant at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Thie won top honors for his line of gluten-free and Paleo-diet friendly organic sauces for home chefs including Tomato Choka, a recipe from Trinidad.

Thie wants to to launch StreetBeet, a food truck where he can promote locally grown food and showcase organic recipes featuring his sauce line.

The grand prize was $2,500 in seed money from Reliable Water Services of Milwaukee to help start Thie’s business, a comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC and over $500 worth of professional cookware and professional knives from Boelter Superstore and a two-hour private meeting with food industry executives serving on FaB Milwaukee’s Advisory Council.

Other finalists included Pete Cooney of Pete’s Pops – Handcrafted Ice Pops and Andrew Bechaud of Bechaud Elixing Company, both based in Milwaukee.

The Challenge was sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services.

 

From jsonline.com: “Sisters focus on quality butchery, wines” — You don’t think of a butcher shop as a place to sit down for a glass of wine and a sandwich, but then, there aren’t too many places like Bavette La Boucherie.

This shop, which seems on track to become a foodie destination, opened in May in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.

It’s primarily a neighborhood butcher shop, where you can buy locally and sustainably produced beef, pork and lamb, as well as a selection of sausages.

But it’s also a café with several tables and eight counter seats that look over the area where the meat is cut.

On the wall to the right as you walk in, there’s a small collection of gourmet food items — honey from Spain, for example — and about a dozen astutely chosen wines for sale.

No matter what brings you to this shop at 330 E. Menomonee St., you’ll find you’re in expert hands.

The owner is chef Karen Bell, who has a culinary degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Over the years she’s cooked up a resumé that reaches from Vong and Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago to Madrid, where she operated her own restaurant. Most recently she was at Café at the Plaza in Milwaukee.

She also has the good fortune of having a wine expert in the family.

So when the time came to select the libations for her new venture, she turned to her sister Jessica Bell, a wine consultant and founder of My Wine School.

“Jessica has a much more sophisticated palate for wine than I do,” said Karen, who at 36 is a year-and-a-half older than her sister.

“And Karen has a much more sophisticated palate for food than I do,” said the younger sister. “Bavette is Karen’s — I simply helped with the wines. We sat down and tasted them all together. I want her vision to shine through.”

The sisters grew up in Whitefish Bay, as part of a food-loving family with four girls. Today, Jessica and Karen live next door to each other on Milwaukee’s east side.

Karen says the inspiration for Bavette came from two Chicago locales — Publican Quality Meats, which combines butcher shop, market and café, and the Butcher & Larder, a whole-animal butcher shop.

She volunteered at both places to begin learning the business of butchering.

Bavette, with its “main focus on the butcher shop,” is a departure from what she had been doing as a chef.

“But I thought — why can’t I do this? I already know a lot of the cuts of meat,” she said.

How did she come up with the name Bavette, which means flank steak in French?

As Karen tells it: “I did not specifically seek out a French word, but when I was trying to think of names and thought of this one, I did like the fact that it is French, easy to pronounce and has a butchering or meat meaning. I was also drawn to it because it is feminine sounding and being a woman butcher, I liked that.”

She says she’s always been “enamored” of French butcher shops, although she’s not trying to emulate one.

As she has become more interested in the politics of food, the idea of a butcher shop that sells meat from responsibly raised animals appealed to her.

And because Bavette is also a café, she can continue her cooking.

Asked if female butchers are a rarity, she said, “I think so — it’s traditionally a male occupation maybe because it’s physical work.”

She sees butchering as “a dying craft, with very few people getting in the whole animals directly from the farm.”

But that’s what they do at Bavette. The carcasses come in weekly, and then are cut up, often by Bill Kreitmeir, a veteran butcher whom Karen hired — and from whom she is learning.

On a recent Friday he was cutting up a Red Wattle hog that had just arrived. It’s a breed included in Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, which catalogs distinctive foods in order to preserve biodiversity and culinary heritage.

The shop’s meat is all from grass-fed animals and sourced locally, mostly from farms in the Madison area.

“We love knowing where our food comes from,” Karen said.

And, yes, you might want to beef about the relatively high cost of the meat here.

Spareribs, for instance, will run you about $6 a pound; at a regular butcher shop, they would cost less than $5 a pound.

But Karen believes the uptick in cost is worth it because the meat “tastes better and is responsibly raised.”

“People are willing to spend a little more money for quality.”

She points to the popularity of Whole Foods as an indication that this is true.

When asked to select wines for her sister’s store, Jessica knew she had to be “very choosy” because they wanted to start with only about a dozen wines in the retail area, priced between $15 and $30.

In addition, there are five wines sold by the glass on the café’s beverage list — all $8 a glass — along with a dozen bottled beers.

“I teach classes on how to judge quality in wines,” she said. “So my goal here is to find the best quality at the best price point.”

The choices reflect the food-friendly wines she and her sister prefer.

Jessica describes the wines, which are from around the world, as having good acidity and an elegance that goes beyond simple fruit taste.

“I guess you can say these wines are more austere, made more in the Old World style,” she explained. “And there are plenty of New World producers making this style of wine, too.”

So, for example, she’s apt to recommend the more restrained wines from Oregon or Washington over California’s big-bodied, high-alcohol wines.

Bell sticks to simplicity with food pairings

For Milwaukee-based wine guru Jessica Bell, pairing wine and food is part of the fun. “It’s a puzzle I love to solve.”

Her basic strategy is to consider three things: sweetness, acid and body.

That’s sweetness, acid and body in both the wine and the food. And the idea is to match them up.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s not an exact science.

In her sister Karen Bell’s recipe for Red Pepper Miso and Sesame Glazed Spare Ribs, for instance, there’s “some sweetness in the glaze,” so that is echoed in the touch of sweetness in the New Zealand Riesling that Jessica chose.

The orange juice and zest in the recipe is a tip-off to look for a wine with good acidity — and that’s a characteristic that top-quality Riesling is known for, according to Jessica.

Pork is one of those meats that can go with either red or white wine. And in this instance, a white with some heft — more body than, say, a Pinot Grigio — matches well with the ribs.

Jessica emphasizes that the method of preparation in a recipe and the secondary ingredients are often more important than the main ingredient.

Looking at the “facts” of the food you’re considering “helps to reduce the chance of a disaster,” she said. “I could think of some really bad match-ups with those ribs. A big, heavy Barolo would be horrible — it’s too tannic for those ribs.”

Of course, there are some always-happy marriages when it comes to wine and meat.

Jessica loves simply prepared lamb with Rioja, a Spanish red made from Tempranillo grape. And with steak, Cabernet is a great pairing. For game, she’ll reach for a richly flavored Syrah-based wine.

“Why mess with something that works?” she said.

From jsonline.com: “MATC finalists serve up heated competition” — Do you have to pick just one?

That was my thought when I looked over the contenders for grand prize in this year’s Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Three guys are finalists in the second annual competition, which is also sponsored by Reliable Water Services and FaB Milwaukee. And each product sounds like something I’d like to try.

There’s Andrew Bechaud of Milwaukee, whose Bechaud Elixing Co. is a line of handcrafted, small-batch beverages made with Wisconsin agricultural products. Consider flavors like Chocolate Chai Veloute, Spring Blossom Cherry Soda and Citrus Saffron Horchata. He’s targeting upscale grocers.

There’s Pete Cooney and his Pete’s Pops, a line of frozen treats made with fresh fruits and natural sugars in flavors that include watermelon mint, strawberry basil and pineapple jalapeño. His goal is to start with push carts and eventually get into area stores.

And finally there’s Michael Thie of Shorewood, with Sauceformations, a line of gluten-free and Paleo diet-friendly organic sauces. His StreetBeet food truck would serve up organic recipes featuring his sauces. One such sauce: tomato choka, a Trinidad specialty.

The judges will have a tough choice to make on July 31, when the finalists make their pitches in person in the student-run restaurant, Cuisine, at MATC’s downtown campus. The judging panel includes (among others) Jan Kelly, chef-owner of Meritage restaurant, Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley market and cafe, and Eric Olesen, owner and president of O&H Danish Bakery of Racine.

The winner gets $2,500 in seed money, an entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC, $500 in professional cookware from Boelter Superstore and a two-hour private meeting with food industry executives.

 

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