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Industry Profile: Robin Matovich Mastera
of The Farmerís Wife

BY NICOLE KIEFERT
PHOTO BY DAVID SZYMANSKI

Dec. 2018

Robin Matovich Mastera originally planned to open a food truck. But when she went to scout kitchen space owned by a pal in West Allis, she knew her plan had changed. Sixty-six is Masteraís lucky number, so when the locale she was eyeing happened to be on 66th and Mitchell and was only a block-and-a-half from the farmers market she loved, she rethought her mission and opened the cozy eatery she called The Farmerís Wife. Mastera talks to MKE Lifestyle about her menu inspirations, her penchant for using fresh, local ingredients and her affection for her neighborhood.
 

How did you come up with the name ďThe Farmerís Wife?Ē

Well, I married a guy that was born on a fifth-generation dairy farm. And it kinda suits my personality. Ö I always just believed feeding people was a good thing and that there is always room for one more at the table. Getting people around a table nowadays is so important.
 

Tell me about your commitment to bringing farm-to-table dining to West Allis.

I was raised in a natural setting. My mom was the daughter of a corn farmer, so she taught me about canning and preserves from early on, and ďthe fresher, the better.Ē We would walk to the farmers market and bring home bushels of berries and make jam. Nothing she ever made came from a box. So, I just feel that itís all the more important these days to have a pure, clean product. Iím allergic to soy, so to try and buy something that [doesnít have] soy in it that comes from a box? Fresh is best. And I think this area really needs that. The people in the community are moving forward and they want it too. Iím filling a need.
 

Your meats are organic too?

Absolutely. The Farmerís Wife proudly serves Kettle Range Meat, so theyíre a huge part of what I offer here and I try to make sure I get the best of the best. If Iím going to serve chicken or I want to do duck, thereís local farmers that are producing them in a natural way and Iím going to work with them. I use a lot of the farmers from the farmers market. If I canít get [some meats] from Kettle Range, thereís a little lady there that does the most amazing grass-fed, grass-finished meats.
 

Do you exclusively tailor your menu around whatever is freshest and most available?

I have a staple menu, but the way I prepare the dishes will reflect what I can get, so it may not be exactly the same. My seasoning blends that I make are always the same, but you might have butternut squash in the shepherdís pie or something else, because I like to keep with the fresh product and the seasonal product. It makes the dish a little more interesting, I think. I try to do a very ďclassicĒ spin on my menu. Where everybody is trying to do the new twist on everything, I want to give people things they probably havenít seen, because itís the way it was done 60 years ago.
 

What type of customers do you see coming through your doors?

We have everybody walking through the door. One of my regular customers is a judge from Milwaukee. I have doctors. Iíve got people from the commercial properties right around here that are coming in. And a lot of the neighborhood families. I did raise my kids in this area; weíve been in West Allis for 32 years now. All my kids went to West Allis schools, and lot of people from the community coming in are people that Iíve known forever, it seems. Itís so diverse.
 

You said your husband was a farmer, but I read on your website that he had also been a sailor on the East Coast.

Heís from New Bedford, Mass. [His family] actually lost the dairy farm to a hurricane and his generation decided not to rebuild. So he was in the Navy when we met. He was stationed here in the Great Lakes. Youíll see a lot of influence from the Gulf Coast in my menu and thatís because of where we were stationed. Ö My clam chowder, I learned how to make that from my mother-in-law. Stuffed quahogs, I have them from time to time. Very much home cooking for him. And when I do Portuguese dishes, itís because it was such a big influence in the area where he was from. So Iíll have Linguica [Portuguese sausage] and things like that, from time to time too.
 

So both of your backgrounds combined inspire the menu here?

Yeah, and our love for the Gulf and all the Southern food. Iíve been told that we have a really good gumbo and I think thatís because Iíve eaten it from Galveston, Texas, all the way through to Orange Beach, Ala. I kinda picked my favorite little points from each one that Iíve had.
 

You prefer heartier, comfort-food fare. Whatís the idea behind that?

I like to serve Sunday dinner, and thatís what I want to offer people. I want you to come here and I want you to be comfortable in my environment. I want my food to make you feel good. I do have  a couple of light side dishes, but mostly it is hearty comfort food. I want to take people ďback home,Ē mentally; I want to give them that mindset.







 

This story ran in the Dec. 2018 issue of: