from a long line of restaurateurs, Roberto Reyes, 41, strives to mix
innovative techniques with traditional Mexican recipes at his first
eatery: Revolucion Restaurant, near 29th Street and Morgan Avenue
on the South Side. Open since last fall, each menu item is labeled
with its origin state in Mexico.
On a recent
Friday, just minutes after preparing a batch of salsa for that night’s
dinner crowd, Reyes spoke about his culinary background and the
journey that eventually brought him to Milwaukee last summer from
How did you get
into cooking as a career?
When I came to
Chicago to visit my family, around 17, I saw all of my family working
in the restaurant business. I started working with them in the kitchen
and liked it. My dad had a butcher shop in Mexico and we cooked
carnitas. Every state has its own traditional food. My state (Michoacán)
is recognized for that. My brother is a chef in Chicago. My cousin is
a chef at Target Field, where the Minnesota Twins play, in
Minneapolis. One of the best chefs I ever worked with is Keith Luce
— he was the chef at the White House when Bill Clinton was there. He
hired my brother (at the former Spruce, in Chicago) and brought me on
board with him. Before him, I worked with Shawn McClain who has three
restaurants in Chicago, including Green Zebra. Working with the
co-owner of North Pond Restaurant in Chicago, I got my idea of owning
my own restaurant.
Did you ever
take a cooking class?
To me, it was
better to learn from people that were really good, instead of spending
money to do that. If you go to school, you’re going to learn the
basics — and it’s not in a restaurant.
What brought you
I came to
Chicago first. My wife’s family is here in Milwaukee. Her parents
lived here for 15 years. My brother-in-law is a chef as well and he
just opened his own restaurant (3 Cusines) in Menomonee Falls. He said
I should do the same. I had been working for someone else for 23
years. It was time. I started going out to dinner and eating at the
most popular Mexican restaurants in Milwaukee. I thought I could do
What are you
trying to achieve with Revoluci"n Restaurant’s menu?
I want to show
authentic Mexican food, and not focus on burritos and tacos. All my
plates come out with black beans. People love it, saying they were
tired of seeing pinto beans everywhere. We do everything from scratch,
from appetizers to desserts.
What do you
enjoy cooking in your own kitchen?
A.: My family is
picky. I have three kids. We go out to eat. My oldest daughter loves
Italian food. The other daughter likes sushi. My youngest (his son)
will eat anything. He works in the kitchen here with me. He’s been
in the kitchen with me since the beginning. Every time my wife and my
daughters go to the mall they drop him off with me. I’m inspired by
Greek, Irish, Italian and French influences. I learned from the French
that you can make dishes look beautiful.