Brewing Projekt Launches New Food Truck: Interview with Chef Josh Steinmetz

The Brewing Projekt is sponsoring a new food truck! New local chef Josh Steinmetz will be serving up food from the truck in September. Recently we spoke with Steinmetz about the new endeavor.

Second Opinion: You are a Johnson Wales University graduate. How did that come about?
Josh Steinmetz: Well I started washing dishes at Lake Wissota Golf when I was fourteen just to have some extra cash before school. When I went to college the first time, I decided that I wanted to take a year off to get away from school for a while. I called up my old chef and asked him if he had openings, and he did. I stayed working with him for three more years at which point he told me that I would learn everything that I would need if I stayed in the industry and just worked, but it would take many years or I could go to school and learn the bulk of all of it in a matter of four years.

JWU was a great experience and an amazing learning experience. The first two years went by very fast and were routine with what we made and the correct way that they were made. The next two years when I got into my concentration were a blast and an amazing learning experience. I graduated in May with a bachelors in Culinary Food Service and Management with a concentration in Sustainability and Wellness.

SO: How did you get involved in the food truck project?
JS: Will and I had been talking for a while when he asked me how I would like to be my own boss. We started discussing the food truck and some ideas, and the rest is history.

SO: What kind of food will you be serving from the truck?
JS: I will be serving a Carolina-style BBQ with my own twist. Some of the items will include smoked pulled pork, herb smoked pulled chicken, sharing portions of tator tots and fried Brussel sprouts, house-made pickles and sauces. Once things get rolling I will be having certain weeks where I will be serving different-style ethnic cuisines.

SO: What is your interest in using local foods and how do you hope to incorporate that with the truck?
JS: My interest in using local foods is trying to get the best ingredients closest to the source of growth. The closer you buy something to where it was grown the better flavor and more nutrients the ingredients will have.

SO: When will the truck begin serving?
JS: We are hoping to have the food truck up and running by the first week in September.

SO: Will the truck be serving Brewing Projekt products too?
JS: We won’t be selling Brewing Projekt products, but we will be using some of them in our recipes.

SO: Describe some menu features that will use local products.
JS: All of the pickles that I will be making will feature local foods, along with the sauces, and I will be using local cheeses. I will be trying to incorporate as much local as I can right away, but it will be a process that will take some time.

SO: What are your goals for the truck?
JS: Some of my goals for the food truck are to offer some big bold flavors that won’t break the bank, trying to be as sustainable as possible, and creating everything I can from scratch.

New Chef Brings Love for Local Food to Sheeley House

Recently we spoke with new chef Brian Jensen at Sheeley House in Chippewa Falls about his love of using local foods and how he is incorporating them in the menu.

Second Opinion: How long have you been a chef? Where else have you worked?
Brian Jensen: I have been a restaurant chef now for a little over four years. I’ve always had an interest in cooking and a passion for it but never imagined taking that passion and pursuing a career through it. I spent the last ten years (before moving to the Chippewa Valley a little over a year ago) working in the Door County and Appleton area. I worked in all facets of different styles of restaurants there but really enjoyed the creativity of working with local foods and high-end ingredients. I got my start in a French/Latin fusion restaurant called Restaurant Saveur, learning and working for a brilliant chef who inspired the bold flavors and unique style I like to cook with. Most recently I worked in Door County running the kitchen at an old staple restaurant called the Inn at Kristofers. From there I moved to Appleton to pursue opening a new Restaurant called Rye in the Copperleaf Hotel. I had stepped away from cooking at this time to manage the front of house and also another wine bar. But it really brought me back to my need to step back into the kitchen fully and dedicate myself to it. Working the tourism circuit between Door County in the summer and South Florida in the winter, it gave me a lot of insight to food and the industry. It also taught me I wanted to come back close to home and make a life here doing what I really wanted to be doing which was cooking.. I have been back to the Chippewa Valley and at the Sheeley House since the end of May 2016.

SO: Why did you want to become a chef?
BJ: My inspiration to become a chef dates back to when I was a child working in our large family garden, watching my mother cook simple recipes from garden ingredients. As the youngest in a large family, my siblings and I always enjoyed fishing for trout in the local streams, picking berries and mushrooms, and even tapping maple trees for the sweets to enjoy around the dinner table. The kitchen was always the focal point of the household, and I can still taste those flavors of fresh ingredients today. They still inspire me.

SO: Describe your interest in using local foods at Sheeley House. What is your long-term goal with it?
BJ: This past spring, I started a project to take an empty parcel of land at the Sheeley House and turn it into a garden to supply the restaurant with fresh produce and herbs. This alone I knew wouldn’t be able to sustain the bulk of ingredients for the menus, but it always gives me different ingredients to use in creating a special or supplementing our current or future menus. I thought this would be a step in the right direction to going to more strictly local foods. I am currently in talks with farmers and getting my foot in the door to start slowly incorporating more of these products in to our menus.

SO: How will you use local foods in your menu?
BJ: Seasonal cooking to me is at the heart of most chefs’ creativity. I love using fresh greens from the garden in creating a fresh salad or braising them to use in stews or accompanying rich fatty meats such as pork belly or short ribs. With an ever-changing menu and extensive weekly specials, I have an almost obsession over using every part of fresh produce as to not waste the fruits of our labor or of local farmers.

SO: Do you do foraging too? How do you use what you find?
BJ: I really started to forage about five years ago. When I was a child picking berries and such was just a way to satisfy my sweet tooth. But it had come back in a roundabout way to foraging mushrooms of all different kinds. My favorite are chanterelles. I love using them to make fresh pastas, a beautiful mushroom soup with bacon and walnuts, to sautéing with a steak, or a mushroom strudel.

SO: Anything else you’d like to share?
BJ: I think that there are many hidden treasures in the Chippewa Valley in the lines of different avenues to find locally sourced food. But it is up to chefs and restaurants to take the steps to highlight these places and show the importance of sustainability and how this helps support local community and business in our area. Wisconsin has much to offer in the changing growing seasons, and we have so much to take advantage of right in our backyard. I am hoping more establishments will start to get on board with this movement of local flavors and cuisine.

One, Two, Three Orchards: Local Apples Galore!

For most people, keeping one orchard going strong would be challenge enough. But Ron Knutson (aka Ronnie Appleseed) has his hands full currently caring for not one, not two, but three orchards. Halverson’s Orchard was the first. “Around 2009/2010, my wife’s (Shelly) Aunt Kay knew the Halversons, and Dennis Halverson was needing help with pruning, so we met and reached an agreement: we would prune the trees in exchange for some apples,” Ronnie explains. “In 2016 Dennis, who had cancer, passed away, and the family graciously turned over the management to us.  Also, in 2015, we heard at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference that Class Apple was looking for somebody to manage it. A small 1.5-acre pick-your-own orchard was just what we wanted. We made inquiries about the orchard and contacted Lorretta. She had lost her husband, Dale, the year prior, also to cancer, and with the family living out of town, she needed someone to take care of it. So we took that on as well.”

Their third (original) orchard is AVEnue Orchard. Ronnie notes, “We purchased what was formerly known as The Apple Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast in October of 2007 but didn’t move in until January 31, 2008, after General Billy Mitchell Air Reserve Base, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, closed, and I retired. Instead of a bed-and-breakfast, we are an adult family home. I was going to retire and just do a little woodworking, primarily making flag cases, but the great outdoors called me, the trees were crying for help, and a new adventure was born. WE HAVE AN ORCHARD! So we added 1,500 more trees and two more small orchards.”

AVEnue Orchard sells jarred and canned goods, as well as prepicked apples. “I think we have as many varieties of jams, jellies, fruit butters, sauces, and pie filling as we do apple varieties, which is at twenty-six and counting,” Ronnie laughs. “And we are always dreaming up new recipes. This year’s leader in our jarred and canned goods is our Strawberry Rhubarb, followed closely by Chai Apple Butter, and who would have guessed but gaining fast is our new Apple Watermelon.  Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Hobenaro, and Apple Pie Jelly are neck-and-neck and close behind.”

What kinds of apples does AVEnue Orchard offer? This year there will be twenty-six varieties available:

Chestnut Crab
Connell Red
Cortland
Daybreak Fuji
Duchess
Empire
Grimes Golden
Haralred
Haralson
Honey Crisp
Honey Gold
Jonamac
Liberty
McIntosh
Northwest Greening
Paula Red
Prairie Spy
Red Delicious
Regent
Snow Sweet
State Fair
Sweet 16
Whitney Crab
Wolf River
Yellow Transparent
Zestar

Our pears are:
Bartlett
D’Anjou

Available for pick-your-own at Class Apple, are Honey Crisp, Cortland, McIntosh, Connell Red, Empire, and Honey Golds. “At Class Apple, we have cider, our very own blend from our very own apples. Class Apple is a quiet place to come and enjoy the greatness of God’s country,” Ronnie says. “Bring your picnic baskets along, you ain’t gonna wanna leaf,” he jokes.

AVEnue Orchard generally opens around mid-August. Class Apple opens September 9 and is open Saturdays and Sundays 12:00 to 5:00 pm, and will close October 8. Halverson’s is not open to the public.

Ronnie seeks to promote access to and use of local food products. “I love it. As much as possible, all our products are from local sources. It is a well-deserved and an awesome show of support to the local farmers, who work hard at bringing you a quality product. Besides, it always tastes better when it ripens on the vine.”

“Oh,” he hastens to add. “I forgot honey! We have honey. Yes, we have the bees here. Fascinating creatures they are.”