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Chef speak
Brent Perszyk - Executive chef and general manager Mr. B's - A Bartolotta Steakhouse

By PAM PERCY

 

Chef Brent Perszyk, executive chef and general manager of Mr. B’s — A Bartolotta Steakhouse, always loved to cook, but didn’t realize it was his calling until after college. After receiving a degree in communications from UW-Milwaukee, Perszyk enrolled in the Hotel and Restaurant program at MATC to confirm his hunch that cooking was his forte.

While there, on a lark, he applied for a scholarship at the renowned Culinary Institute at Hyde Park in New York and was shocked to hear he was one of four students from around the country to receive a full two-year, all-expenses-paid, first-rate culinary education.

After graduating in 1993 and interning at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square, Perszyk decided to return home as sous chef at The River Lane Inn, under chef Karla Fisher. His next job was the chef de cuisine at Christie’s in Appleton before being recruited by Adam’s Mark-Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile, Ala., as its executive chef, overseeing the facility’s five food service outlets. Taking that slot didn’t take too much urging when he saw his office overlooking the Gulf Coast on a warm sunny day in January.

In 1998, Perszyk, a true Milwaukeean, was once again lured back to his hometown by the Bartolotta Restaurant Group to open Nonna Bartolotta’s in Stonewood Village as the executive chef. The next year, he opened Mr. B’s, and last April the restaurant moved down the street on Capitol Drive to what was once the Agave Restaurant. After a stunning makeover, the cozy eatery now seats 140, and offers a beautiful outdoor dining area.

Perszyk estimates that 90 percent of his restaurant patrons come for a steak fix. His secret to perfection is cooking the meat in a wood-burning oven at a high temperature, making the steaks and chops juicy and flavorful. The meat is seasoned only with salt and pepper, plus a post-cooking rub of butter. But for the non-carnivores, Perszyk lays out many options, including fresh scallops and fish flown in from Boston. For the best wine pairing, sommelier Katie Espinosa can suggest the perfect wine with any entrée.

Perszyk puts in numerous 12-hour days, wearing dual hats as business manager overseeing a staff of 80 employees and as executive chef with the help of sous chef Joe Kukowski. He also likes to give back to the community, such as working with youngsters at Central Middle School in Hartford, to develop healthy recipes for school lunch programs.

Mr. B’s Crab Cakes
1 pound lump crab meat
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon old bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Place crab meat in medium bowl (check for shells). Combine the rest of the ingredients, except bread crumbs, in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour mixture over crab meat. Add bread crumbs by sprinkling over this mixture. Gently combine. Form into cakes. Dust with bread crumbs to help prevent sticking during cooking. Lightly sauté in olive oil or butter until golden brown and hot all the way through. Finish in the oven if necessary. Makes seven-to-eight 3-ounce cakes.