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Wine and Dine
The Kohler Food and Wine Experience celebrates 15 years

Photos Courtesy of Kohler Co.

 October 2015

An annual event expected to draw up to 7,000 attendees this year, the Kohler Food and Wine Experience returns for its 15th year, set to occur Oct. 22 to 25 in Kohler, Wis. M caught up with Matt Bauer, food and beverage operations manager of Destination Kohler ó American Club and a Kohler native himself, about what sets Kohlerís experience apart, his own professional journey and which chef heís most excited to meet.

M: Youíre considered a Destination Kohler success story. Tell us a little about yourself and your journey to where you are now.

MB: "Iíve been with the company now for 15 years. I started when I was 15 as a dishwasher at our Italian restaurant, Cucina, and was promoted to a p.m. cook in the kitchen by the time I graduated high school. My boss there had attended the California Culinary Academy and spoke highly of it, so I decided to go to culinary school there. I earned my associateís degree in culinary arts but needed an externship to graduate. ... I ended up at a private restaurant in Hawaii ó 3660 On The Rise in Honolulu. ... I returned to Kohler as a broke college kid in 2003, and I got a side job at a restaurant in Sheboygan Falls. Then I got a call from my old chef at Cucina, asking if I wanted a job. I accepted a job as a line cook at The Immigrant Restaurant, five years later I became the head chef, and three years after that I was named the restaurant manager so I also took over the front of the house. In February 2015, I was named the food and beverage manager for all of the American Club outlets."

M: What sets the Kohler Food and Wine Experience apart from other like-minded events?

MB: "A big thing that sets us apart is our guestsí ability to interact with the chefs and demonstrators at the actual event. Generally, when youíre at a larger festival, youíre not able to do that. Here, itís a lot more intimate. Youíre able to taste all the food that theyíre cooking, not just watch. You get the ability to ask questions and engage with the experts right here and there. Also, you donít have to be a food or wine expert. Many of the guests that come range from very novice to very knowledgeable. In essence, thereís something here for everyone. Itís not as intimidating as going to a larger event."

M: Since the festival is celebrating 15 years this year, what new and notable events can guests expect?

MB: "Weíre looking to expand our Midwest chefís stage, focusing on Milwaukee and Chicago market chefs. We didnít put as much focus on it in the past because we always have headliners every year on the main stage, but the excitement weíre trying to drive this year is excitement for more local chefs. Weíve also brought back people that have really dedicated their time to us over the last 15 years, like (father-daughter chef duo) Jacques and Claudine Pťpin." (Editorís note: Midwest chefs were not yet confirmed as of press time.)

M: Which featured celebrity chef are you most excited to meet?

MB: "Out of everyone, Scott Conant is definitely the one Iím looking forward to most. He was a judge on "Top Chef" and "Chopped," and I watch those shows all the time. Itís a face that I know, so itíd be cool to meet him."

Interested in attending the experience? Hereís what you need to know.

- The four-day festival includes dozens of seminars, tastings and demonstrations. Each event is priced individually, with many prices falling between $30 and $50.

- The priciest event is the "Feast of Talent" on Saturday, Oct. 24 ó a five-course dinner inspired by the eventís celebrity chefs. Tickets are $249 (includes tax and service fee).

- Complimentary demonstrations and tastings are available at various locations throughout the resort, including The Shops at Woodlake, Kohler Design Center and Woodlake Market.

- Visit or call (866) 243-8548 to purchase tickets or find more information.


This story ran in the October 2015 issue of: