Q & A with Braise Chef/Owner Dave Swanson

photo courtesy of Braise

Braise Restaurant in Milwaukee has its roots in education. Chef/owner and James Beard nominee, Dave Swanson, started Braise as a traveling culinary school with classes and dinners in farm fields. In the restaurant today, guests can sit at the chef’s counter and watch their meal being prepared. Swanson added community tables to the dining room to encourage conversation among diners. The culinary school is now on-site and the classroom has moved to the green roof where the chefs grow vegetables and herbs and produce honey with a Beepod top bar hive. For those who prefer the farm experience, Braise continues to offer 3-course farm dinners throughout the summer and fall.

I checked in with Chef Dave to get the latest buzz from Braise.

Beepod on Braise Roof in gardent

Your hive is doing very well. To what do you attribute Braise’s beekeeping success?

I give credit to the wide variety of plants, vegetables, and flowers in our garden. Also contributing are the addition of hives in the area; El Centro was the first, I believe, and I know a few residents in Braises’ vicinity have recently installed hives.


Educating the community has always been part of the mission of Braise. Do you feel that your rooftop garden and bees have served as an educational tool?

Yes, education is the main focus of the garden, the second being rainwater retention and finally the production of vegetables and herbs for the kitchen. Diners eating on the rooftop deck see the garden and bees in action and can quickly make the connection. The culinary school occasionally uses the garden for a class setting, highlighting planting, growing, and harvesting, courtesy of the bees.


How are you keeping your business afloat during the shutdown?

In addition to the delivery and carryout, Braise offers grocery items (eggs, milk, meats, cheeses, etc.) from our supporting farms. We also have Recipe Meal Kits from our culinary school, a great family activity to fight the boredom of being quarantined.


With the closing of bars, has curbside sales of your Crazy Dave Old Fashioned kits been a hit. Where does the “Crazy Dave” name come from?

Well, isn’t this state the birthplace of the Old Fashioned? We’re just doing our part. In the madness of opening the restaurant, our then bar manager, James Gutierrez, named it in my honor!


Cities around the world look very different in this time of social isolation. How has the view of Milwaukee from your roof changed?

Milwaukee is a tight-knit community, in this time of uncertainty it’s nice to feel that support. Going forward, a new normal is in the offing. Now, what that looks like after the quarantine is interesting to ponder.


To “braise” is to fry lightly and then stew slowly in a closed container. Many of us are stewing slowly in the closed containers of our apartments and houses. Any advice on how we might use food to raise our spirits?

Crazy Dave’s Old Fashioned and a Recipe Meal Kit. A little cooking, a little learning and a little drinking; sounds like a perfect Braise evening!









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Bill Polacheck

Bill is a teacher, environmentalist, and freelance writer. If he's not out in nature, he's happy to be writing about it.
Bill Polacheck
Bill is a teacher, environmentalist, and freelance writer. If he's not out in nature, he's happy to be writing about it.

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