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Chef Speak/Tyler Mader

Photos by Ryan Janecek

May 2013

Tyler Mader has a vision. Scion of the fabled Milwaukee restaurant family, Mader is focused on building his Trad to Rad brand, which reflects his cooking style of adding unique flair to traditional recipes. He’s compiling his recipes into a cookbook, with plans to open a restaurant and create a private food label. Who knows what else lies in the future, perhaps even being a celebrity chef.

His first steps on this journey came as a tyke. For him, Mader’s, the century-plus German eatery in downtown Milwaukee, remains one of the most wonderful places on earth. Yet when he was young, Mader didn’t fully understand just how famous the place was. But he knew that there was something special about it, especially when it came to his grandfather, Gus, whom he adored.

Then, of course, there were the old weapons, wood carvings, suits of armor and pictures of the famous patrons who had dined there, plus the soda fountain. That package comprised everything that a kid could love.

With his granddad’s blessing when he was 6, Mader got his first job at the restaurant: escorting guests to their tables. "That was the beginning of what would soon become a culinary journey full of flavors and friendships," recalls Mader. "I loved making people feel special. You could say that ignited my passion for the restaurant industry."

Formal Training: Culinary Institute of America; managed Tra Vigne in California under Emmy Award winner and celebrity chef Michael Chiarello.

Aha Moment: Joe Bartolotta hired Mader as general manager of Ristorante Bartolotta from 2003 to 2004. "My time at Bartolotta’s was critical to my full understanding of the industry," Mader emphasizes. "It wasn’t just the lessons I learned about the freshness of ingredients, the harmony behind perfect flavors, the sequence of service, the attention we gave to the guest or the expectation to overachieve on a day-to-day basis," he says. "Most importantly, it was about the decency and kindness with which Joe treats his employees."

Lessons Learned: "Whether you’re a chef or manager, the most important thing to always keep in mind is that in the restaurant industry, no matter what, the guest is always No. 1. Everything else comes secondary to the needs and expectations of the guest."

True to His Heritage: "My favorite German dish, hands down, is Wiener Schnitzel ala Holstein. Nothing is better than a beautiful piece of grass-fed veal dusted in seasoned bread crumbs, cooked to golden brown perfection and topped with a farm-fresh egg."


This story ran in the May 2013 issue of: