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Chef Speak
Matt Baier - Dream Dance Steak


June 2012

Chef 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?

Recently, the 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 quality.

Is steak your favorite meal?

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.


This story ran in the June 2012 issue of: