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Chef Speak
Kurt Fogle, Pastry Chef - Surg Restaurant Group, Milwaukee and Brookfield

By PAM PERCY

Chef Kurt Fogle, the new pastry chef of the SURG Restaurant Group, has had a charmed culinary career. Merely five years ago, he decided to pursue his dream of being a pastry chef and enrolled in classes at the renowned French Pastry School in Chicago.

Fogle’s initial road into the culinary arts world began early. Growing up in Racine, he doesn’t rave about the cooking done by his mom, Beth "Baba" Williams, although chuckles she is now an accomplished cook. So he taught himself the basics, and lucked into his first job at age 15, working for O&H Danish Bakery in Racine. The facility is famous for its luscious kringle, and his love of sweets was confirmed. Later, while delivering Rocky Rococo pizza part-time, he started daydreaming about becoming a pastry chef.

Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, the pastry school’s co-owner, realized Fogle’s talent and invited him to apprentice in France, where he was chosen to be his assistant for the MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) or Best Craftsman of France. The competition is held every four years and winning the coveted red, white and blue collar is the most prestigious honor a pastry chef can attain in France.

Fogle was then featured in "Kings of Pastry," a critically acclaimed documentary that follows Pfeiffer’s quest and Fogle’s apprenticeship. The movie premiered at the Milwaukee Film Festival in 2010.

After this experience, Fogle’s options were limitless. But Pfeiffer urged him to return to his hometown to spread the word about great pastry. A call to chef Robert Ash at the Intercontinental Milwaukee Hotel immediately resulted in a job offer. After a three-year stint at Kil@wat, Fogle then briefly worked at The Pfister. Fate intervened when chef Matt Haase at Distil said the SURG Restaurant Group was looking for a chef to head up its pastry division. The firm consists of several popular venues: Carnevor, Umami Moto, Charro, Mikey’s, Nuovo Centanni, Distil and, most recently, Ryan Braun’s Waterfront.

Subsequently, last October Fogle began developing new and exciting desserts anchored in French tradition, but with his own twist. He is constantly pursuing new directions and combinations. For example, he has devised a dishless crème brulee in the shape of a cylinder, and his indescribably delicious Chocolate Peanut at Umami Moto uses sesame oil to give the dessert an Asian tweak.

Though the restaurant world is keeping him busy, Bay Viewian Fogle finds time to hang out with his girlfriend, Carly Nelson, a manager at Water Street Brewery, and Kate, their new German shepherd.

Pecan Streusel

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cake flour
1 cup chopped pecan pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Method

1. Cut the butter into small cubes and re-chill.

2. Add the brown sugar.

3. Sift the cake flour, salt and cocoa powder.

4. Add the pecan pieces.

5. Combine all the ingredients in a mixer and mix until pea sized pieces of streusel are formed.

6. Place in an 8-by-8 dish and bake at 300 degrees about 25 minutes or until crispy.

Serve as a delicious topper for apple crisp, ice cream or as a stand alone.