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Chef speak
Michael Engel - Chef/owner - Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar


March 2012

Having done his time in kitchens across metro Milwaukee, including The Bartolotta Restaurant Group and Hotel Metro, Michael Engel at last opened his own restaurant in March 2010. French flair at Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar is in every detail, from the cooking methods to the wine selections. "I wanted Pastiche to be a true bistro ó a small, humble neighborhood restaurant that offers simple dishes made from good local products, and wines that complement them, served well, for a reasonable price," explains Engel.

Indeed, the angular entry to Pastiche is humble: on a section of Kinnickinnic Avenue just south of Oklahoma with bungalows and bars as neighbors. And if you think the bistro is staffed with pretentious waiters and a difficult-to-understand food menu, pas de tout. "Many people think French cuisine is stuffy and pretentious. People are pretentious ó food is just food," says Engel.

You recently opened Pasticheís second floor for wine retail as well as wine classes. What lessons do you hope to teach about wine and food pairing?

I want people to be able to experiment with different pairings, and hopefully realize that itís really not that much of a mystery how flavors work together to complement each other and make the whole tasting experience greater than the sum of its parts.

What attracted you to Bay View as the location of your first restaurant?

The people who live there are very food and wine savvy, and fiercely supportive of small, locally owned businesses. They are real and unpretentious, just like the restaurant.

Do you try to disprove any misconceptions about French cuisine?

If there is a misconception that I want to disprove, itís that good food and wine has to be expensive. If a cook has good produce, and the technical training to make the most out of it, thatís 90 percent of the job. The rest is passion and pride of workmanship, respect for the food, and for the dish he is preparing. Those are all very French things. Thereís nothing stuffy about that. M


This story ran in the March 2012 issue of: