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Chef Spotlight
Peggy Magister - Chef and Owner, Crazy Water

Photos by Matt Haas

April 2015

Talk to chefs around town, and ask them where they go to dine. Crazy Water and the A.P. Kitchen often top their list. Chef and restaurateur Peggy Magister, originally from Wauwatosa, studied at the California Culinary Academy before returning home to Wisconsin.

Why did you leave California?

"Great chefs are a dime a dozen out there, and if I wanted to get anything of my own, I knew I wasnít going to have the money out there. My home was here, and I moved back. I started a catering business, the Fork Cafť, then opened up a restaurant of the same name in Cedarburg, and then opened Crazy Water 13 years ago."

You opened the A.P. Kitchen last year. Any plans to open a third restaurant?

"Two is enough for me, and my nephew (Justin Anthony) runs the A.P. I am probably going to give that to him ó thatís in the works, and then I wonít have too much to do with it. I am going to focus on Crazy Water. Iím pretty hands-on ó I donít have managers and things like that. Iím in the kitchen a lot, Iím a ma-and-pa kind of person. Having two places was really hard to do. My nephew is doing a great job. We see each other and talk every day, but eventually thatís going to be his, and this is going to be mine."

How would you describe your cooking style?

"Rich flavors with French in its roots. I use cream, I use butter and I braise a lot of things. Thatís my starting point, then I try to implement seasonal ingredients. I have a ton of cookbooks, a lot from California, and I try to implement those ideas into a basic, French background. I hit a lot of farms in Elkhorn ó my cottage is out there ó and there is tons of produce there. What Iíd like to do this summer is have a couple of special dinners out there. I think that would be really nice."

What are your favorite kitchen tools and ingredients?

"A mandolin is important, a good knife is important to me, and oh, a good, heavy skillet for braising meats. Also a rolling pin. I like to bake, and I canít live without my KitchenAid (mixer) and my food processor. As far as ingredients, I have to have a good olive oil, sea salt, a good pepper grinder, and then it goes from there."

Where do you get inspiration for your cooking?

"I go to Gloriosoís quite a bit ó I love going through there and looking at stuff. They have butter from Italy and the cheeses are great. I also like going to the Milwaukee Public Market. I think for most of us chefs, when we go to a food market of any sorts, weíre like kids in a candy store. I havenít gone to Eataly (in Chicago) yet, but Iím sure Iíd go nuts there.

Good cookbooks inspire me, and I love to travel. I often go to California ó my sister lives outside of Sonoma, and I go to the Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Otherwise, I try to go to different places. The smartest thing I did was open that patio in the back of Crazy Water, and that was all inspired by a restaurant in Pasadena."



This story ran in the April 2015 issue of: