Milwaukee Hilton chef focuses on farm to table
Growing up picking cherries, strawberries and apples, Bill Doyle developed an early appreciation for fresh, local and seasonal ingredients.
A native of West Sand Lake in upstate New York, he took those early lessons and turned them into a career.
Trained at the Culinary Institute of America-Hyde Park in New York, Doyle has more than two decades of kitchen experience in hotels and convention centers.
Nearly a year ago, he came to Milwaukee as executive chef at the InterContinental Hotel. He might not know all the local landmarks just yet, but he’s making his way through the farmers markets.
Doyle recently moved into a new role as executive chef at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, 509 W. Wisconsin Ave. He oversees all food and beverage operations at the Hilton, including Milwaukee ChopHouse and Miller Time Pub.
He lives in the Okauchee Lake area with his wife, their two children, a cat and three dogs.
As part of Marcus Restaurants’ 2013 Celebrated Chef winter series, Doyle will present a Chocolate Chowdown featuring cocoa-spiced spareribs and chocolate desserts on Feb. 2. For information and a schedule of classes, go to marcuschefs.com.
Classes will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. select Saturdays at the Mason Street Grill Chef’s Counter.
Classes are $29 per person, $49 per couple. For reservations, call (414) 935-5950.
Q. How did you start working in the restaurant industry?
A. When I was really young, in grade school, I started working orchards picking strawberries, cherries and apples through the seasons. Then I started working in a country club when I was a freshman in high school.
I started as a dishwasher, and then a couple months later became a cook. I graduated high school, went into the Army to pay for college. Then I went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
Q. How do you describe your approach in the kitchen?
A. My focus is on the food in every way. I’m a perfectionist, never satisfied. I’m always going to work to improve on what we’ve done before.
I’m a risk taker and rarely do the same thing twice if I’m doing menus.
It’s not about the spotlight for me. Sometimes the spotlight or your personal ego can shadow what’s really important. That’s the food.
The higher up in the industry you get, the further you get taken away from the food. It’s a constant battle to get back to it.
Q. How much time do you spend on the line these days?
A. That depends on the day. I always tell my cooks and students that I probably split about 60/40. Forty percent being cooking, 60% being administrative. . . .
Now I’m more of an innovator and train my staff on how to do it. Yesterday, however I spent 9 1/2 hours in the kitchen. That was a good day: all food.
Q. Your class for the Marcus series is Chocolate Chowdown. What have you learned about working with chocolate?
A. You can’t just do everything and anything with chocolate. It is sensitive to moisture and heat.
The current trend is to experiment and incorporate chocolate into savory as well as sweet. A lot of people consider chocolate as just a dessert. It can be a lot more than that, as we demonstrate in the class.
I’m playing with pork spareribs (for the class). When you get into the savory aspect of cooking with chocolate, it is unexpected that people get chocolate as an accent rather than the main flavor. It is an excellent background to many other cuisines and flavors.
Q. What appeals to you about cooking for others in a restaurant setting?
A. I was drawn to it because food itself is so diverse. There’s an endless amount to learn. It’s very individually rewarding as a career, but it also involves a great bit of teamwork.
It has an artistic component. It is called culinary arts. Most of us chefs believe it is an art form, possibly one of the most difficult art forms.
The other thing is that it is sustainable. No matter what happens, everybody’s got to eat. It ties us all together. I’ll never know everything there is to know about food.
Q. Much of your career has been in hotels and restaurants handling big events. What advice can you give to those planning menus for weddings or large events?
A. The best thing to consider is that you’re going to be trying to please a lot of people. You can’t go too far to the left or right. Think the majority, and don’t limit your choice because of the few.
Wedding-wise, my biggest suggestion is to try to choose the menu and foods you like. That day is all about you. Try to start there.
Q. When looking ahead, what issues are important to you?
A. Our focus, as it continues to be an international and national trend, is farm to table. That will be a huge focus of ours in 2013.
It is a way to improve the flavors and the quality of our cuisine, as well as do the right thing for the environment our kids will live in and grow up in.
Q. What local farmers markets do you visit?
A. We’ve been to South Shore Farmers Market, West Allis and the one in Madison. That’s the first one we wanted to explore. It is outstanding and still considered local. . . .
Wisconsin has a lot to offer. We’re not just looking at fresh, raw products, but bread makers, ice cream, charcuterie, cheeses.
We’re working on co-ops and getting together as a group to communicate to bring the product we need to our doorstep when we need it.
Just because we want to use a local product doesn’t mean it is easy. Making it happen is one of the most difficult pieces. It’s coming along.
Q. Best kitchen advice you’ve ever gotten?
A. I would have to say, build a great team. The future of food is only as good as the people we grow.
Q. What should aspiring chefs know?
A. It’s not a bunch of screaming and yelling and chaos in the kitchen. There are deadlines all the time.
There’s a lot more involved in being a chef and the culinary world than just food: management, team building, organization, sanitation and cleanliness, efficiency, equipment knowledge. It’s physical. It’s mental.
Q. What’s your go-to kitchen equipment?
A. An immersion blender is a very handy tool to have. It is portable, mobile. I have a 12-inch French knife that I use for almost everything.
It’s a very large knife, and I got in that habit early in my career, and I can’t quite kick that habit. Everyone is always surprised when I pull that out.
Q. Do you cook at home?
A. I don’t like to get too involved when I cook at home. It’s part of what I do all day, and I don’t want to go home and do it all night.
We do a lot of roasted chicken and vegetables. We have a little bit of Irish heritage, so we do stews, depending on what time of year it is, but we also do quick things like macaroni and cheese.
Q. Have you gotten a chance to check out other local restaurants?
A. To be honest, I haven’t had a lot of time to explore the market. I really liked Braise. That’s the one that stands out the most since I’ve been here. I’ve only been here for eight months.Filed in Press Coverage