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Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Enchanting Edibles

Chef Feker’s magical kitchen

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During the countless hours Chef Michael Feker spent cooking in the kitchens of the finest restaurants, some of which have been his own, he was creating a mental blueprint of the perfect kitchen. That plan was made manifest when the renowned chef designed the kitchen for his culinary school, Chef Michael Feker’s School of Culinary Magic. In his words, he was a kid in a candy store, sparing no expense outfitting the 600-square-foot workspace with top-of-the-line equipment manufactured by names like Wolf, Kohler, DuPont, Decora and Sub-Zero.

The culinary school is located adjacent to Feker’s Il Mito Trattoria & Enoteca restaurant in Wauwatosa. The warm, cozy interior includes four different cooking stations for students and, for Chef Feker’s use, a sleek island cooking station that brings to mind both a stage and a pulpit.

A lifetime of culinary experience inspired Feker’s practical and resourceful design decisions. He placed a large piece of Corian over a row of high-humidity drawer refrigerators to keep the surface cool— perfect for maintaining the temperature of rolled dough. Because natural gas contains moisture, it can jeopardize a baking recipe, which typically requires dry heat. To this end, dual ovens with both electric and gas heat sources were installed. Feker also included a French stove top, which is known for its technical merits, to cook pastries and sauces that need a very delicate, constant temperature.

The list of culinary tools, or toys if you’re a serious foodie, goes on. The best part: Students of Chef Michael Feker’s School of Culinary Magic are invited to use all of it.

The school’s core desire is to be accommodating, incorporating students’ budgets, schedules, cooking experiences, personal tastes and nutritional needs. “If my patrons want something done a certain way, it’s much easier for me to format the class according to those requirements, rather than dictating the class and forcing students to accommodate me,” Feker says.

The school offers a diverse menu of cooking classes and events that give patrons the choice of preparing a meal under Feker’s guidance or observing from the chef’s granite counter as he creates a meal for them in the open kitchen.

Students interested in hands-on cooking instruction can enroll in an array of classes, including hourly one-on-one sessions, group lessons and team-building events. Let’s say you cannot, for the life of you, cook a scallop without making it tough and flavorless. Feker invites you to call the School of Culinary Magic and create a class specifically for you (and your friends if you wish) that focuses on seafood. He will order the ingredients in accordance with your budget and teach you, hands-on, how to prepare the main course, as well as a few sauces for accompaniment.

“I don’t like giving you just a recipe,” Feker explains. “A recipe is just a guideline for measurements and for certain flavors that please my palate.”

Instead, Feker teaches students in a broader sense, focusing on the foundation and chemistry of food. After class you eat the fruits of your labor, savoring each and every tender bite of those flavorful scallops.

The school is also available for special events, like cocktail parties, family-style dinners, “Friday Night Out” and the “Regions of the World Wine Tasting” dinner, during which a wine connoisseur pairs complementary wines with a threecourse meal prepared by the chef.

Whether you’re observing him from the chef’s counter or standing by his side at the stove top, it’s clear that Feker was born for the kitchen. “My passion for food is addictive,” he says with a radiant smile. “The point is whether you want to get addicted or not.”

Chef Michael Feker’s School of Culinary Magic is located at 6917 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa. Call (414) 443-1414 or go to www.ilmitocooking.com.