The Milwaukee Art Museum is excited to announce that Zak Groh has been appointed Executive Chef of its culinary program, including Café Calatrava and events. Groh comes to the Museum with sixteen years of professional experience in the hospitality and restaurant industries.
Groh, who is a Milwaukee native, most recently owned and operated Whisk Culinary, a boutique catering company servicing the aviation markets in Milwaukee and Chicago. He has managed James Beard Award–winning restaurants and taught culinary arts, bringing a well-rounded and unique perspective to his new role as Executive Chef.
Get to know Chef Zak Groh a little better through a recent Q&A session:
How many years have you been in the food and beverage industry?
I started working at our family’s frozen custard stand at age eleven. I worked there all through high school and have been in the industry ever since—professionally since age eighteen.
Has anything about the Museum (the art, architecture, location) inspired your forthcoming menus?
It has, and will only continue to. I think food has to be fun, which I am reminded of when I see the Chihuly in Windhover Hall—the colors, shapes, and controlled chaos of the work remind me of a busy kitchen! When I see Cornelia Parker’s Edge of England, I think of panko, and then I think of spring, and asparagus, and a panko-crusted asparagus, maybe paired with a sumptuous confit of tuna, a punchy bright sauce . . . and so on!
What is your cooking philosophy?
My philosophy is to cook seasonal and for the day. I am always looking to add a twist or something unique to a basic technique.
What is your favorite dish to cook for yourself or loved ones?
I love to cook with loved ones for a special meal and to use homegrown vegetables and herbs when possible. I especially love cooking with my daughters, Sloane (2) and Bridgette (3). We’ll snip chives, soft scramble some eggs, and finish with a drizzle of brown butter for a simple breakfast!
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
I am a big fan of acidity; a splash of vinegar or a few riffs of a zest can really brighten and balance a component.
Where does a chef enjoy eating in Milwaukee on his day off?
Milwaukee has so many good spots! A favorite is Le Reve. I also try to catch some of the offerings at the farmers market and will pop into the Public Market to grab a po’boy at St. Paul’s Fish Company.