Food for thought on Madison’s restaurant scene
We ask a lot of chefs.
When I asked Evan Dannells to meet me for a cup of coffee this past August, I had no idea he was planning to open Cadre in just a few short months. I requested the interview because I had a feeling – after he parted ways with Merchant and Lucille and took a part-time consulting gig with Pasture & Plenty – that he hadn’t quite reached his maximum potential as a chef just yet.
My instincts were right, and oddly well-timed as I was working on this month’s cover story. Dannells and I sat down at Ancora Coffee on University Avenue, and I ate up every detail about his new restaurant. There was sincerity and passion in each sentence he shared. This venture was to be a culmination of everything he had wanted in a restaurant – not just a place that serves delicious food and offers a great experience to diners, but a place that fosters a positive and sustainable work environment for all employees.
There are details about opening a restaurant that people don’t always hear or see. For the bellyaching Yelpers of the world – who I think have an exclusive reservation waiting for them in the afterlife – Cadre is just another new restaurant. For Dannells, it is the business he put his soul and savings into – it’s his livelihood. We ask a lot of chefs like him. Nowadays, they’re expected to not only be talented cooks, smart restaurateurs and expert interior designers, but also accessible personalities.
I get that not everyone’s tastes and standards are the same. I understand that critical reviews help diners decide where they spend their money. I can see how honest feedback promotes improvement. I just wish we would acknowledge local restaurants for what they are – extremely personal (and financially risky) expressions of someone’s craft and creative vision.
The chefs featured in this issue could find much easier ways to make a living. Instead, they spend their time pouring themselves out while they fill us up. Their restaurants are what give this town its unique flavor.
For that, I am extremely proud and excited to feature five chefs who are taking risks to start ventures that put their skills on display for us to enjoy. We have a feeling these talented and passionate chefs will further cement Madison as a dining destination in the years to come while offering us many opportunities to indulge in one of the most universal joys there is – sharing an excellent and memorable meal that helps connect us to this place we call home.
COPYRIGHT 2021 BY MADISON MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED.