Chef Christopher Koetke is not only a skilled and celebrated chef – he’s also executive director at Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago and an influential educator – working with culinary students around the world. Featured on EatWisconsinCheese.com’s “In the Kitchen” this month, we had the pleasure of talking with Chef Koetke about the importance of a good culinary education and the wonderful foods he and his students work with – including delicious Wisconsin Cheese.
How He Started Cooking:
When I was in sixth grade I was stressing out about what I would do one day and it just dawned on me – food. From that day forward I started working in restaurants. As a teenager I was always reading books about food and wine – it’s just in my blood – food and everything related to it.
For me, there are some key concepts and very high standards that we deliver here at Kendall while teaching people how to cook as a professional. We make sure students understand the entire package – service and culinary arts. A lot goes into learning how to run a restaurant – developing key cooking skills, learning what “excellence looks and tastes like,” and understanding how to run a business.
On Wisconsin Cheese at Kendall College:
As I tell my students, there has been and will continue to be a cheese revolution in the United States, and Wisconsin is an example to the rest of the world of what we’re truly capable of creating here in the States. We’re very keen on making sure our students understand what extraordinary foods we have here in the Midwest.
On Wisconsin Cheese:
I will never forget going on a cheese tour in Wisconsin, years ago. I came back with this sort of “wait a minute” moment. Less than three hours from Chicago people were making some truly world-class cheese. From that day forward I was a gigantic fan of what’s going on in Wisconsin.
I am continuously amazed at the quality and originality of cheese that is coming out of Wisconsin – it just gets better and better.
Wisconsin Cheese Favorites:
I have a tremendous soft spot in my heart for Wisconsin Limburger. I am a secret fan of Myron Olson’s (cheesemaker) and the Chalet Cheese Cooperative – what he’s doing is incredible. Widmer’s Brick is also delicious. I love the stinky cheeses.
Find Chef Koetke’s favorite Wisconsin Cheese inspired recipes on EatWisconsinCheese.com.