Matt Baier of Dream Dance Steak relates how his mother told him he
liked to cook since he was a youngster helping her in the kitchen. His
parents were instrumental in laying the foundation for his interest in
food. Baier, his brother and sister helped in the family’s half-acre
garden, from which they canned most of what they grew.
"But it was
when I was 16 working my first job as a cook at a local nursing home
that really cemented my interest in cooking," he recalls. From
there, Baier left his small town in Illinois and headed to Portland to
the Western Culinary Institute; he knew he wouldn’t be content
settling into a quiet life in a small town.
At age 19, he
set a goal for himself to be the chef of a four-star restaurant by age
30 and came to Milwaukee in 2005 to work at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.
Before overseeing the Dream Dance Steak kitchen, Baier served as the
lead chef and sous chef, in addition to serving as lead chef at RuYi,
the casino’s full-service Asian restaurant.
He turned 30
last November and was named chef of Dream Dance Steak with just a few
days to spare. "It feels incredible to have attained that
goal," he grins.
To stay in
shape, he tries to work out at least four to five times a week in the
employee fitness center. Each Sunday, he also runs with his wife,
Leslie. "My advice for other young chefs on maintaining a healthy
lifestyle is to try to limit yourself on tasting all the food you
make," Baier says.
How have you
infused your influence into the Dream Dance Steak menu since you took
over in November?
restaurant has started making charcuterie, including bacon, prosciutto
and pancetta; and our own fresh cheeses like mascarpone, ricotta and
mozzarella. I enjoy taking creative control over these processes and
making them my own. As general practice, I try to make dishes that my
team and I enjoy ourselves, but make it approachable for a guest.
What is your
favorite dish on the current menu?
I really enjoy
the pork porterhouse prepared with a savory porchetta rub. I’ve
paired it with lighter sides of sugar snap peas and a leek and potato
hash, which complement the dish nicely for spring.
Who or what are
your culinary inspirations?
When I first
arrived at Dream Dance Steak I trained under chef Jason Gorman, who
played a big role in developing my talents. Dean Harris, a cook on my
team, also inspires me in the work I do. I also spend time reading
about innovative chefs, like Marco Pierre White and Grant Achatz.
What would you
like to see more of/less of in Milwaukee from a culinary standpoint?
I would like to
see Milwaukee and the Midwest move away from the convenience of fast
food restaurants. Local, family owned restaurants offer a richer
dining experience and often times will surprise you with their
Is steak your
I do enjoy
steak, but at home I tend to cook more pork, chicken and seafood. For
a fine cut of meat, I look for good marbling. It provides the most
flavor. If I can, I like to buy organic or locally raised. At home, I
do most of the cooking because I enjoy it so much. Leslie picks out
new recipes for me to try and serves as my No. 1 food critic.