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Milwaukee Restaurant Looks for Local Growers - Lots of Them

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S Bence
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Chef Van Luu

Potawatomi Hotel and Casino on Canal Street has played a central role Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley revitalization.

Not only does it draw tourists eager to try their luck at slot machines or see a concert; Forest County Potawatomi is also making a name for itself in sustainability.

Its 381-room hotel achieved gold LEED certification. And all of Potawatomi’s food waste lands in a $20 million digester - just west of the complex - producing 2 megawatts of electricity.

Van Luu’s kitchen contributes to the system. The accomplished culinarian is executive chef at Locavore, and oversees every mouthful of food that comes out of its kitchen. The kitchen does breakfast, brunch and dinner as well as room service for the hotel.

Locally grown foods are a big part of the menu.

"A lot of our ingredients comes from local farms. Our pork comes from Madison...these tomatoes came from Growing Power, our spinach comes from Growing Power...We also try to utilize a lot of local farmers' markets," Luu says. He usually goes to the Greenfield and West Allis markets.

The restaurant's beef comes from Iowa. "We can't source anything out of Wisconsin for the fact that there is no single farm that would be able to produce the amount that we need," he says. 

When it comes to Luu's dishes, he is all about experimentation.

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.