Kristine M. Kierzek
While Matt Haase started his career on the savory side, he always dreamed of desserts. The Germantown native worked his way into Milwaukee kitchens starting with opening Dream Dance at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, followed by roles that included Bartolotta Restaurant Group, Rocket Baby, Ardent and DanDan. Attending the French Pastry School in Chicago gave her a whole new set of skills and an appreciation for perfect pastry.
His latest role, that of Pastry Chef at Shully’s Cuisine and Events, 146 Green Bay Road, Thiensville, sees him creating a whole new level, from custom cakes and cookies to plated desserts and bites for crowds. Meeting dietary needs is another big focus, and he’s also working on creating gluten-free and vegan options.
He lives in Milwaukee with his wife, Julie, and their sons, Calvin, 11, and Miles, 5.
How it started
Watching my mom cook dinner and helping my dad cook brunch on Sunday mornings. I was interested in learning how to scramble my own eggs. If my parents made something for dinner that I didn’t like, I was welcome to make something different. It rarely happened, but I’ve always been interested in how you can apply heat to something and turn it into something else and make something delicious.
Every night we all sat down as soon as my dad got home from work and had dinner and talked. It was definitely a ritual.
Current home cooking
I have a 5 year old and an 11 year old. … We cook together. Earlier during the pandemic, I stayed home with my children. My wife is doing really important things in the world. She works at the VA (Veterans Affairs) and she has worked in hospitals. I was at home with the children.
Every Thursday we went to the West Allis Farmer’s Market. They were allowed to choose whatever they wanted. Often the focus was on fruit. The blueberries this year were really, really great.
Savor the sweets
I’m definitely a dessert person. I love desserts to a ridiculous extent. If I’m in the restaurant, I’ll order all the desserts. I say “One of everything.” I really like well-executed desserts. They make me happy.
His new role
I’m the pastry chef (at Shully’s). I do all the sweet things.
When a customer describes the experience they want, it’s our job to bring their vision to life. If that means making a plated dessert with certain flavors, that’s something we can do, or making a bunch of cookies, that’s something we can do. If it’s a party cake, we can do it.
The goal is to help the guest realize their dream as it was in their head.
From salty to sweet
I started savory cooking. I went to (culinary) school in Pittsburgh, not very good. While I was in school, I got a job in a very good restaurant. Many terrible things I learned in school were corrected at night when I was at work. They were saying hey don’t do this, this is now how you want to feed people, or it’s disrespectful to this vegetable. Although they use much more colorful language.
It was one of Lidia Bastianich’s restaurants. I was lucky to have a good education there. It helped toughen me up.
I then started as an intern at the Dream Dance at (Potawatomi Bingo) Casino with the first chef, Brandon Wolff, and was hired full time. When he left to open Bacchus, I was the only staff member he took with him. I worked for Bartolotta for a while.
I originally wanted to learn pastry right away, but I enjoyed working at Dream Dance and with Brandon. I just thought I would find out later. I was swallowed up trying to improve myself in the art of cooking. Finally, I was able to learn pastry at the French Pastry School (in Chicago).
Attracted by desserts
Looking around us at the time, everyone had the same dessert menu. It was creme brulee, flourless chocolate cake, fruit crumble and bread pudding. … For me, if everyone has the same thing, it’s boring.
Donut Monster has good donuts. I love them, even though I haven’t had one for a very long time. If I have a small bite I can’t control myself and then I eat like 10.
I have lost almost 100 pounds over the past two years. I started exercising and learned about diet. I pack all my meals myself. They do an employee meal here which is excellent, actually. If I had to make a plate of it, I would make two or three. Portioning my meals keeps me in control.
Define your approach
You need to think about the guest and what they are going to want.
If I’m an artist, I define my photo frame, then I select the colors I’m going to use. If my photo frame is you need a chocolate dessert and you always have to have a gluten free option, this helps make my photo frame. So I know the flavors that I think go with chocolate that someone would like. I put them together with a variety of textures to keep it interesting but not to show it off.
Always in her kitchen
Equipment is equipment. I think to really really improve and excel, an inquisitive mind is needed.
Home cooking success
I do most of the cooking at home. I will cook dinner and extras for my wife to take away for lunch and things the boys like too. Right now, the boys really like a salad of quinoa and avocado, frozen corn, lemon, green onion and cilantro. At our place, everyone loves pasta, so I make it once a week.
And, I’m making popcorn for movie night. My youngest son likes to shake spices on it. He changes them, usually everything he can reach. My eldest son is a real salt and butter guy. My wife sometimes likes chili flakes. Actually, I don’t eat popcorn.
Don’t look for him to open a restaurant
No never. I prefer to take that energy and be able to put it into my family and spend time with my boys and my wife.
Fork. Spoon. Life. explores the everyday relationship that local notables (both within and outside the food community) have with food. To suggest future personalities to profile, email [email protected]