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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tasty Television

Cooking the Wisconsin way

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Not everyone grows up in a home where they help their parents prepare meals and, in doing so, absorb their family’s recipes and cooking tips. Culinary know-how that only comes from experience isn’t always passed down to the next generation, and cookbooks only take an inexperienced chef so far. The enormous popularity of food and cooking shows is evidence that there is an interest and need for information and guidance derived from masters of the craft. Viewers of these shows get for free what trained chefs took years to learn.

“Wisconsin Foodie” is a local television series that debuted on WISN-TV (Channel 12) at noon on Saturday, May 10. Each half-hour episode is an exploration into Wisconsin food treasures and unique travel destinations. Every week, “Wisconsin Foodie” travels throughout the state to feature farmers, chefs and businesses that share a passion for all things edible.

“Here in Wisconsin, we’re doing internationally acclaimed things on a daily basis,” says the show’s host, Kyle Cherek. “Once people are aware of it, they can be wowed by it.”

The first episode of “Wisconsin Foodie” introduced the show’s personalities and the types of segments viewers can expect to see. In addition to Cherek, the show will feature chef Brian Moran, culinary director and owner of St. Paul Fish Co. at the Milwaukee Public Market. Chef Moran will work with either a guest chef or prepare one of his own meals in Madame Kuony’s Kitchen, a state-of-theart demonstration kitchen located on the second level of the Market. Jessica Bell, who is also the wine director for the Bartolotta Restaurant Group and founder of the Milwaukee Wine School, serves as the show’s resident wine expert and will appear on “Wisconsin Foodie” to share the best new wines, pairings and buying tips.

The second episode of “Wisconsin Foodie” featured local businesses such as the Milwaukee Public Market and the Spice House. The third episode expanded the focus to an entire neighborhood, Walker’s Point, where Cherek takes viewers on a tour of the area’s most popular restaurants. The show visits executive chef Peter Sandroni of La Merenda, a full-service bar and restaurant featuring smallplate portions of international cuisine. Chef Sandroni demonstrates a recipe in his kitchen, and prepares another from his menu in the Market’s kitchen. We experience one of chef Peggy Magister’s meticulously prepared meals at Crazy Water and learn a little about wine pairing with Jessica Bell at Chez Jacques.

“Our fourth episode is about indoor agriculture,” says Arthur Ircink, “Wisconsin Foodie” executive producer. “There are so many chefs that want to support local farmers, but, with our harsh climate, they don’t know where to go in the winter.”

The show will spotlight former professional basketball player Will Allen and his involvement in Growing Power, a nonprofit organization and land trust that, through hands-on training, demonstration, outreach and technical assistance, helps individuals grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner. “Wisconsin Foodie” will follow a shipment of produce from Growing Power to Meritage, where owner and head chef Jan Kelly will include the vegetables in a recipe she demonstrates in her kitchen. Bell will also be on hand to pair wines with the meal.

Foodies are conscious of what they eat—where it comes from, how it’s prepared and, above all, how it tastes. Along with catering to these lovers of food, “Wisconsin Foodie” promotes the camaraderie that develops when we sit down with family and friends for a good meal, whether it’s at home or at a restaurant.

“We lack a lot of that in our culture right now,” Ircink adds. “Whatever our small show can do to encourage that, I think we’ve met our goal.” “Wisconsin Foodie” airs Saturdays at noon on WISN Channel 12.

Photo: Kyle Cherek and Jessica Bell