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Chef Spotlight
Claire Mench - Emmi Roth USA

Photos by Matt Haas

November 2015

Claire Menck had considered law school, but she ultimately followed her heart to become a professional chef. A chef with both an MBA and a Ph.D., that is. A Wisconsinite by birth and a Milwaukeean by choice, Menck headed up the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Wisconsin before she was lured into her dream job as corporate chef at Emmi Roth USA, a leading producer of specialty cheeses. When shes not at home in Milwaukee, she travels the country teaching chefs, culinary students and consumers about cheese and cooking with cheese. Milwaukeeans will probably see her in the warmer months traveling on the Emmi Roth food truck.

M: How did you switch tracks from law school to culinary school?

CM: "I was studying (for the LSAT) at the Madison law library when I saw a culinary school brochure for the New England Culinary Institute. I thought to myself, The world probably doesnt need another lawyer, but it probably could use another chef."

M: Tell us about your Ph.D.

CM: "I received my Ph.D. from Antioch University, but I was a visiting scholar at Tulane University in New Orleans. My dissertation was about the impact disasters have on food systems. I studied how the food system of New Orleans helped the city to recover from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the BP oil spill. Food, especially in that community, was one of the things that brought people back to the city. It was a critical part of rebuilding."

M: How did you go from academia to a corporate chef?

CM: "While I was at the Art Institute, I received an externship from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, and I spent four days at Emmi Roth. It was an amazing experience. Reggi Hise, the previous corporate chef, did a scholarship dinner for us, and we kept in touch. "Later on, I received a call, and I learned Reggi was retiring. I thought to myself, Im happy with what Im doing, but I just fell in love with the company. It really is a family-run company, and I am a part of that. Also, the cheese is amazing, and I get to help with the development of new products and recipes. I travel all over the country to teach people about cheese. Its such a cool gig."

M: When youre not cooking with cheese, what are you cooking?

CM: "Im doing research on the Wisconsin fish fries and brat boils. I feel like the food traditions up here in the Midwest sometimes have been considered second-class citizens, and I think that is not as it should be."

M: Where do you shop?

CM: "Im a big fan of Pacific Produce. I also love Penzeys."

M: What are your favorite culinary tools?

CM: "My new favorite is the green egg grill. Its a ceramic grill that can get up to 900 degrees inside. I love my 12-inch chefs knife, a good pair of tongs, a pairing knife and my cast iron pots. I have a huge collection of those. When I was in New Orleans, a lot of butcher shops are attached to gas stations, and in the gas station stores, there are usually a whole array of cast iron pots."

Apple Gallette

by Claire Menck

6 servings


1 1/2 cups Roth Ultimate Mac N Cheese Blend
1 sheet Puff pastry
1/4 cup Apricot jam
2 Apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1 teaspoon Lemon juice


1 cup Heavy cream
1 Tablespoon Grand Marinier
1/2 cup Powdered sugar

Pre-Service Prep:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the apples with brown sugar and lemon juice.

For the pie: Unfold the puff pastry. Pinch the edges to form a crust on the outside of the pie. Spread apricot jam on the bottom of the pie.Top with cheese. Place apples on top of cheese. Bake in oven until puff pastry turns brown (approximately 20 minutes).

For the Chantilly Cream: Place sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a whip attachment. Add cream and Grand Marinier.Starting on a low speed whip cream until it forms stiff peaks.

Refrigerate until service.

Assembly for Service:

Gallette can be served hot, warm or chilled. Once removed from the oven, allow the gallette to rest for approximately 5 minutes. Cut into six pieces. Serve. Chantilly cream can be served in a bowl on the side.


This story ran in the November 2015 issue of: