Mel Trudeau - Underground Kitchen
Chef Bee Khang
Specialty: At the restaurant, of course, sushi - though at home, notes Chef Khang, "I would consider my specialty to be comfort food," including slowly braised meat.
Where else he has cooked: Restaurant Muramoto, where he served as chef and co-chef until moving to Sushi Muramoto; and, earlier, at Firefly (executive chef), Ocean Grill (sous-chef) and the Edgewater (lead line cook for seven years).
Chef David Heide
Specialty: Creole. "My parents met in New Orleans," Heide explains. "I've been down there 15, 16 times, and I love the city and the culture."
Where else he has cooked: Here in town, Cocoliquot and Carl's Cakes; also San Diego's acclaimed El Bizcocho.
The Underground Food Collective resists hierarchy, but co-founder Jonny Hunter identifies Mel Trudeau, another member of the restaurant's principal quintet, as perhaps the best nominee for the title of chef.
Specialty: Winter vegetables like squash, potatoes and celeriac, according to Hunter, and wild-foraged foods including mushrooms and greens.
Where else she has cooked: Cecil's Deli, Bakery & Restaurant, St. Paul, where she was a prep cook. She was general manager at the Tornado Steak House early on.
Chef John Gadau and Chef Phillip Hurley
Specialty: American-style French bistro, says Gadau, rooted in "really traditional French bistro fare" like frites, steamed mussels and cassoulet, with the addition of innovative and creative approaches to fish dishes that emphasize lightness and personality.
Where else they have cooked: Each received his culinary start in Chicago (Gadau at Café Provenzale, House of Blues, Relish and other restaurants; Hurley at Carlucci and A La Carte) and honed his skills in California (Gadau at renowned L.A. restaurants Citrus and Patina, Hurley at Zuni Café and other trendy San Francisco Bay Area bistros).
Executive Chef Tory Miller
Specialty: "The whole point of what we do is elevating local ingredients, trying to take as much local food as we can and doing fun stuff with it," Miller says. "I enjoy not having boundaries."
Where else he has cooked: New York's Eleven Madison Park and Judson Grill, Racine's Park Inn.
Chef Rob Grisham
Specialty: "Frites and mussels," says Grisham, "and we always feature a dish with duck on the menu."
Where else he has cooked: Nitty Gritty (line cook), Otto's (sous-chef), New Glarus' Edelweis (chef).
Chef Jesse Matz and Chef Rachid Ouabel
Specialty: "I enjoy cooking classical French cuisine," says Matz (pictured), while Ouabel brings the Moroccan flair to the restaurant's Mediterranean dishes.
Where else they have cooked: Matz at Nadia's on State Street, Mazomanie's Old Feed Mill and Devil's Head Resort. A native Moroccan, Ouabel was a civil engineer on an extended U.S. vacation when he decided to take a position at Shish Café here.
Chef Francesco Mangano
Specialty: "We do all our cured meats in-house," notes Mangano, citing cuts like coppa, pancetta, prosciutto and bresaola. Mangano also singles out Budino di Caramello, OP's butterscotch pudding with whipped cream and cocoa powder, as a signature menu item.
Where else he has cooked: Harvest, Cocoliquot, Manhattan's Felidia (under a disciple of Mario Batalli) and, earlier, in Bologna.
Tornado Steak House
Chef Andrew Lickel
Specialty: "I've worked in pretty much every cuisine there is," says Lickel. At Tornado, his focus is on "Wisconsin fare" in what he calls a "high-end supper club" context, emphasizing seasonal ingredients and beef.
Where else he has cooked: Starting as a line cook at Restaurant Magnus, Lickel has also served as sous-chef at Restaurant Muramoto, in the chef's post at Otto's and as the opening chef at Samba Brazilian Grill and its sister restaurant, the Cabana Room.
Chef Brett Olstadt
Specialty: "I've never been someone who's had a specialty dish," Olstadt demurs, adding that he now brings his training in classical French cuisine to the service of Asian ingredients - yielding the style of Asian fusion on which Restaurant Muramoto has staked its renown. "Simple food done well," is how Olstadt characterizes it.
Where else he has cooked: Harvest (lead line cook), Cocoliquot (sous-chef), Tornado Steak House (chef).
Chef Timothy Dahl and Pastry Chef Elizabeth Dahl
Specialty: Rustic Italian and Mediterranean flavors, seasonal and local ingredients, pastries.
Where else have they cooked: Timothy at Restaurant Magnus and Blackbird and Avec, in Chicago; Elizabeth at Chicago's Campagnola, Charlie Trotter's, Naha and Boka.