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Chef Speak
Roberto Reyes - Chef/Owner Revolucion Restaurant


Coming 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 Mexico.

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 to Milwaukee?

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 something better.

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.