Recently we sat down with Nick Burki and Chris Hatleli owners of Coquette restaurant for a little conversation. Nick and Chris recently purchased Coquette cafe and we wanted to check in on them.
How did Coquette Come to be ?
Chris: Coquette Cafe was opened in February 1999 by the amazing culinary power couple Sandy & Angie D’Amato. Coquette Cafe has been a fixture in the Milwaukee dining scene for 11 Years. Nick and I were part of the opening crew for Coquette in 1999 and in March of this year our Mentors Sandy & Angie passed us the torch to Coquette Cafe and we plan to carry the tradition on for the next 11 Years and longer.
What can people expect to change at Coquette?
Chris: We want to expand our hours in the future to include Saturday Lunch and Sunday Brunch. We are also working very closely with Sweet Water Organics in Bay View. We are growing allot of our own produce over there right now and are also using their organic Perch. We are also trying to reach out to the community a little more. We have started an Urban Garden Project with the Academy of Learning and Leadership and Usher’s New Look Foundation. We are helping the kids plant a garden and are working on a cook book with them.
Nick: We are not going to change much. Coquette Cafe has been an institution in this city for 11 years and we want to keep it at that same level. We are going to stick with the same philosophy that our mentors Sandy and Angie instilled in us. We will continue to provide you with all of the wonderful classic French dishes that are dear to your heart, a few contemporary dishes that you are sure to love,and our Coquette travel menu that allows us to visit the cuisine of other countries. We are having the time of our lives here and we can’t wait to see you.
What are your thoughts on eating locally?
Chris: I think we are super lucky right now in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. We have a great culinary scene here and the Nation has been paying attention. This year alone 5 chefs from the area were nominated for James Beard awards and the city has many other local alumni of the James Beard house as well. It is very easy to get a great meal in Milwaukee right now and I try to get out as much as I can.
Nick: I love to eat locally, but the times are few and far between. My wife and I have a 2 year old boy and a 7 year old boy and they do not make the perfect dining companions yet. When my wife and I do get a chance to go out we really enjoy the food that Chef Paul Zerkel creates at Roots. We are also huge fans of Crazy Water, Sanford’s, Cafe LuLu, and Hinterland. There are some amazing things going on in Milwaukee and we are honored to be a small part of it all.
What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with?
Chris: I think anything seasonal. Like right now for instance we are coming out of winter and all that comfort food and I am excited to lighten things up a little. We have things like Morels, Fiddlehead ferns, Ramps, and Soft-shell Crabs coming into season and I am like a little kid in a candy store. I love the changing of the seasons and the new products they bring to work with.
Nick: I love working with all of the local and organic products. To go and pick our herbs and lettuce over at Sweet Water Organics and be able to put that on a plate a few hours later is awesome. When you go and see the produce it seriously looks happy. It doesn’t look like the produce you get at the store it really does look truly happy and it’s flavor is amazing. I also love our organic eggs and the difference they make in every single dish we use them in.
How did you get your start in the kitchen?
Chris: My parents owned a George Web Restaurant so i would peel potatoes and help them prep the line before I went to school. My Grandparents and Uncle also owned some Taverns and I worked at their establishments on the weekend.
Nick: I started working at Dairy Queen in Menomonee Falls when I was pretty young and then I went to Culinary School at WCTC in Waukesha after High School. I also cooked alot with my Mother and Grandmother when I was a child. I have always had a passion for cooking.
What can people expect when eating your food?
Chris: I hope that the only thing that people can expect when eating my food is that it is going to be good, fresh, slightly different from the norm, compact in flavors, and hopefully it will have them wanting more.
Nick: I think that people can expect to receive a wonderful meal that highlights the best local & seasonal products prepared with great technique and love.
Who are some of your inspirations in the kitchen?
Chris: Right now it’s South Indian Cook book Author Alamelu Vairavan. She’s rocking! She has a P.B.S Cooking Series, and she is working on her 5th Cook Book. She is also doing a cooking class here at the restaurant for us. I Think South Indian ingredients and spices are where it’s at.
Nick: My first inspiration in a professional kitchen environment was Chef Louie Danegelis. He was my teacher at WCTC in Waukesha and he really inspired me to continue on this path. He is an awesome Chef and an even better person. He owns Lee John’s Catering which in my opinion is the best Catering company in Wisconsin. My other major influence was Chef Sandy D’Amato. I had been cooking for several years before I started at Sanfords and thought I was ready for it. I was never arrogant about my cooking skills, but after I started at Sanfords I was extremely humbled. I was cutting things, and cooking things, and tasting things that I had never seen or tasted before and it opened my mind to the limitless possibilities that food presents.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Chris: That I am a Country Boy at Heart. My grand parents had a Farm that I spent alot of my summers on.
Nick: People might be surprised to know that I was an Actor since I was about 5, the lead singer in an old Milwaukee band named SOMA ,and a DJ at 93 QFM.
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