andrew mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | feb. 2017
It's been a few years since I've put pen to paper (yes, I used to actually write about food), but with each stroke of the keys, the fog is lifting and the article engine is tuned up and ready to write. I appreciate the opportunity to hopefully entertain you in the world of food and wine. I'm confident in my approach, as this is year 32 for me in what I consider the most rewarding and exciting industry in the world.
From working the line at a Country Kitchen during my college days in La Crosse, to being Reggie White's personal chef during the Super Bowl year of 1996 to owning a number of restaurants over the years, I've experienced quite a bit. It's not always about the glamour; in fact, it's never about the glamour. This is a game played and won in the trenches, behind the scenes and under pressure. As I found out working my way up, “these are a few of my favorite things.”
No two days are the same, and I love it. No two guests are the same, and I can't wait to meet the next one through the door. If you have the mentality to truly focus on every single guest, every single plate and every single $3 old fashioned, you have a chance.
I've been asked when I decided to make this career choice and my answer is always the same. I didn't choose this industry. It chose me. I believe in gifts and I believe in talent. Talent is never first, and gifts can be lost. The only way I knew how to show appreciation for a gift is to use it. The fact is, my mom knew I was going to be a chef before I did. She said I was always fascinated with food as soon as I could walk, talk and crack an egg. I wouldn't eat just for the sake of eating, even as a child. I was always experimenting with flavors, colors, textures and was quite proud, when at the age of 4, I dipped my culinary little piggy's in the “sweet meets savory” world and created a sandwich worthy of all your forthcoming wrinkled noses — bologna and raspberry jelly on Wonder bread. I thought I had invented the next McRib, but it turns out I didn't even invent the next SPAM. I know you can't win 'em all, but that wasn't even close.
Just like anything, it has to start somewhere. Maybe early on I was tapping into the sweet n' salty everything that's practically taken over the world. From salted caramel coffee to chocolate covered bacon, the trend seems to be about discovering the next bologna and jelly sandwich, but is it more of a fad than a trend? Time will tell but I'll keep you in the loop.
My goal every month is that when you've finished reading this article, you will have learned a trick or two that can be of real use in your kitchen. You may acquire knowledge regarding trends in the food and beverage industry, and hopefully, you even cracked a smile at my less-than-orthodox approach to writing about food. I'm not a cookbook author that pumps out hard to understand, boring to read and impossible to prepare, recipes. I sometimes take different preparation paths or have different techniques than some, but the end always justifies the means and the only rule is it has to be tasty.
Rest assured, the recipes that are in this column won't be frustrating. If I don't have a recipe ingredient called for in my professional kitchen pantry, chances are, you won't have it in your home pantry. So don't rush out and buy gold leaf for your chocolate soufflé. Don't buy saffron to infuse your risotto and cancel the rush order for white truffles from Piedmont, Italy, to shave on your lobster poached quail egg omelet.
I look forward to sharing with you many of the valuable tips and techniques I've picked up over the years from some incredible chefs and culinarians. Being able to share this with you is very rewarding, but showing you how to create wonderful meals that make memories for a lifetime is even better. Thanks for listening — “keep on cookin' on” — I'll cook with you soon.
-- Chef Andy