and Carolina-bred Matt Kerley came to Milwaukee via San Francisco.
This talented, young chef had been making a name for himself, earning
rave reviews at Radius, but he moved to Milwaukee so his son could
grow up near relatives. Kerley wound up working at Bacchus and Lake
Park Bistro before helping to open Rumpus Room. When Chef Andrew Ruiz
moved on to Joey Gerardís, Kerley took the helm for two years before
traveling to Blue Jacket. When Blue Jacket closed, he moved on to
revamp the private University Club of Milwaukee. Then, earlier this
year when Hinterlandís Dan Van Rite decided to open dandan, Kerley
became the gastropubís new executive chef and general manager.
Kerley sat down with M to discuss his latest adventure.
Tell us about
I feel like itís
my homecoming. When I first moved to Milwaukee, Katie Rose (then
bartender at Burnhearts and now co-owner of Goodkind) was one of the
first people I met (in the industry), and she introduced me to Dan Van
Rite and Paul Zerkel (who is now co-owner of Goodkind), and Dan said,
"Why donít you come and hang out with us at Hinterland until
you find a job?" And here I am now, coming full circle.
What do you love
just one of those restaurants that breeds perfection. Everyone takes
ownership of their craft, whether itís cooking or bartending or
serving or greeting people at the door. Everyone takes pride in what
they do, and our clientele picks up on that.
What do you
crave when youíre not working?
Believe it or
not, Iím somewhat of a health nut outside of work. One of my
favorite dishes to make is a piece of marbled steak over really simple
greens, (like) baby kale or spinach, shaved fennel, olive oil, raw
shallots. Itís just incredible. When I eat out, I always want tacos
or pupusas. I love the steak tacos at Guanajuato. I go to mass at the
Basilica (of St. Josaphat), and El Salvador Restaurant is right across
the street. The pupusas are incredible, and so is the little cabbage
slaw they serve
with it ó (itís)
What are your
A really good
olive oil is a key one for me. I like to have piri-piri sauce, sherry
vinegar and Bragg liquid aminos. At home, when it comes to cooking, itís
the same philosophy I have while working. For example, thereís a
dish I make (at work) thatís just a chicken dish, but itís
amazing. Itís a whole chicken, but we brine the chicken for 24
hours, then we grill it and serve it over grilled escarole lettuces
and shiitake mushrooms, just a little bit of butter, salt and chicken
stock thatís been made with basil and Parmesan rinds. Itís the
kind of dish I can make at home as well. We do antelope (and other
exotic dishes), but not every level of diner is ready for that. I want
to make sure itís the best chicken they ever have.
secret to a good brine?
recipe. If youíre going to brine (chicken) for 24 hours, take 5
gallons of water, 1Ĺ pounds of salt, 1 pound of sugar, 2 cooked
onions, 20 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of chili flakes, 10 to 12
sprigs fresh thyme, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of whole peppercorns. After
cooking the onions, add all the ingredients and enough water to cover
everything. Bring it to a boil and cook it until itís translucent.
Then pour it over ice to cool, and then add enough water to make 5
gallons. This works for about 20 chickens. If you break it down to a
fifth of the recipe, you could brine two to three chickens. The brine
lasts, refrigerated, for up to seven days.
What are you
looking forward to in August?
heirloom tomatoes, anything corn. One of my favorite things is a
really good panzanella salad, made with chunks of brioche or
sourdough, soaked in duck fat, oven-roasted, (with) a really good
sherry vinegar and olive oil and basil. I also love shaving corn on a
microplane and then heating it up with a little garlic cream to make a
cream of corn, served with some gypsy peppers and pesto. Whatís so
great about August is thereís so much vibrant, bright fruit Ö you
can let the ingredients speak for themselves. We just got some wild
asparagus and red oak lettuces from LotFotL (Living Off the Fat of the
Land) Farm. Iím so sick of kale ó itís been so long. m