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Chef Spotlight
Heather Terhune - Tre Rivalie and The Outsider

Photos by Matt Haas

October 2016

Heather Terhune was a foodie before the term "foodie" was ever coined. She pursued a culinary career with enthusiasm, garnering both an undergraduate degree in agriculture and restaurant/hotel management from the University of Missouri (Columbia) and a culinary degree from the New England Culinary Institute, and sheís never looked back. A top 10 finalist in season nine of "Top Chef," Terhune was born in Vermont, but she considers herself a proud Midwesterner. With a career thatís spanned both coasts and significant time in top restaurants in Chicago as her foundation, Terhune recently opened Tre Rivali and The Outsider at The Kimpton Journeyman Hotel. She sat down with M Magazine to discuss Milwaukee, food and television.

You always wanted to be a chef. Tell us more.

My parents tell me that when I was 4 years old, and they asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said, "Spare ribs and artichokes." I never wanted to be a teacher or a doctor or anything. I always wanted to be a chef. I grew up around food, canning and pickling, tapping our own maple trees, foraging for fiddlehead ferns ó my momís a great cook, and my dad made wine and sarsaparilla. Having five kids, my parents were just being frugal and resourceful, but my parents were really building a foundation for me. That was a great way to grow up.

Youíve worked in restaurants from Jean Louis in Washington, D.C., to BDK in San Francisco. How did you decide to make your next move to Milwaukee?

I did want to come back to the Midwest. My whole family lives in the Midwest, and I really missed that Midwestern lifestyle. Milwaukee seemed like the right fit. I havenít been here that long, but I do think thereís a big community here and not just from a chefís standpoint. Milwaukee is much more sophisticated than people give it credit for. I think it feels like a little Chicago, but itís not so supersaturated, and there are a lot of foodies and people who are interested in great cocktails and great service.

Tell us how you developed the menus for both Tre Rivali and The Outsider.

Iíve spent the last 18 years of my career on Midwestern comfort food, and Iíve never worked in an Italian restaurant or been the executive chef of a Mediterranean restaurant. But I spent my first sabbatical living in Tuscany, and Iíve been back to Italy and to Spain. I looked back at my journals from the time and my photography, and I thought about the dishes that inspired me and changed my cooking. It took four or five tastings to get the menu where it is, and I did my very first tasting Dec. 1 of last year. Itís a long process, and Kimpton gives us 100 percent creative control. Itís very chef-driven. I have four chefs ó

two line cooks and two sous-chefs who came with me here. I like teaching dishwashers to be prep cooks and line cooks to be sous-chefs. We make everything here from scratch ó all our bread, all our sausage, all our pastries and ice cream. Our No. 1 seller is the char-grilled octopus. We sell a lot of seafood here. At The Outsider, we do a ton of take-out pizzas from Tre Rivali, the tuna tartare microcones and a lot of caramelized onion dip.

Tell us about the culinary version of reality television.

I was actually approached (by a scout) and asked if I wanted to apply. I had no expectations of what it would be. I went through the interview process, didnít hear from them for months, then all of a sudden, I (was called to be on the show). Hereís the funny thing: I never watched it before I went on it. I absolutely loved the experience and made some great friendships. There were 150 crew members for 16 chefs. Youíre working under a lot of restrictions. Here in the restaurant, you have time and you have extra product. If you burn your steak here, you put another one on, and there, you canít fix it, and you donít have time to fix it. Youíre also cooking under unusual conditions, like a chili competition in the middle of July in Dallas. If you watch closely, you can see the editing ó my hair was different or I had different earrings on. People still recognize me from the show, but I never tell people I was on it. I usually say, "Oh, you probably know me from one of my restaurants in Chicago."

What are the ingredients and tools you canít live without?

Salt. Lots of salt. I love Diamond Crystal kosher salt and flaky sea salt. My friends make fun of me because I have a mini Altoids tin in my purse, but itís filled with French sea salt. I donít want to offend anybody, but a lot of restaurants underseason their food, and it is my

No. 1 pet peeve. I love my microplane. I also have all kinds of little rubber spatulas, and this little pickle fork. It has a holder and a silicone ring, and it goes over the jar. Itís the most ingenious thing. m



This story ran in the October 2016 issue of: