Table Talk: Tony Koebel
Kristine M. Kierzek🇧🇷 Specifically for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
when you enternorberto, 115 S. Main St., West Bend, you can get an idea of what motivates Tony Koebel.
His intentions are in every inch of the space, from the tables he built, to the menu with small dishes to share, to the art on the walls. The Last Supper is posted very deliberately.
Feeding people and creating space for community is just part of their mission.
Koebel, who grew up in West Bend with five siblings, went toMarquette University High Schoolin Milwaukee, 45 minutes by car. The insights gained there have an impact on your approach today.
Giving back is essential to Koebel, who has been cooking Thanksgiving dinners for the community since opening in 2014. During the week of January 25th, The Norbert will be serving athe one with cheelTagebuch Barkha.Proceeds will benefit the Nepalese restaurant that was destroyed by fire late last year.
This spring, Koebel plans to open The Orville at 518 Poplar St., West Bend, in a renovated building where his family spent years running the Poplar Inn, which closed in April.
"We don't want to reinvent the wheel. I just want it to be good food and I want to see people more than once a year," Koebel said.
Question: How did you get into the world of catering and cooking?
responder: I love the cooking process, I love it. In fact, I'm a carpenter by profession. We are about to open this new restaurant and I had to get out of the kitchen. I have these amazing cooks now. We have chefs that come all the way from Milwaukee to work here. …
One of the reasons I'm in this business is because my dad and I bought a restaurant together 15 years ago. I did not know anything. I started working as a bartender and my curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to know more. I wanted to jump into the kitchen and learn more about the finances of a restaurant and how everything is organized. I love all.
Q: What is the story behind Norbert?
ONE:I received the keys on May 7, 2014. During that time I worked at Habitat for Humanity as a senior carpenter. I spent four months running to Beaver Dam and then back to West Bend to create the space. I built the bar, the tables, designed the chairs, knocked down the walls.
He has been in the Poplar Inn business for seven years. He wanted to feed a bigger market. I needed a place to lower my prices. I wanted to serve more people. Everyone always thought the Poplar Inn was an expensive steak place. The food was good, but I wanted to meet and see more people. When we came here to downtown West Bend and we had this fishbowl of a restaurant with big windows out front, it lent itself to what we wanted to do. I went tostrange duck(in Bay View) as soon as they opened, and I will say to the day I die, they were the inspiration for The Norbert.
Q: What is something that defines your space and focus?
ONE:We are always changing the art, the food. I think this is so important. You need to constantly update and change. This new generation, this Instagram generation, wants the latest and greatest. We have a few menu items that are always on the menu, but I believe there are only four of them. Everything else changes regularly.
Q: Do you have a favorite ingredient you work with?
ONE:I love making bread and I love making dough. I started making the dough and sourdough. I had this woman come out and she said she had an appetizer she wanted to give him. He gave me a pint of her starter, said it was 42. It was a great treat.
Q: What's behind the new project for The Orville restaurant?
ONE:The Poplar Inn is a restaurant with the same flair since 1981. It is an extremely old building built in 1858. People say it is haunted. It wasn't created to run the business we created. When we purchased this restaurant in 2007, we were looking for 10-15 people to walk through the door on a Friday night. At the top it was 160 on a Friday…
When the pandemic hit, we moved operations (from The Norbert) to the Poplar Inn for three weeks and did some renovations. Now let's redesign it and give it a new life (like the Orville). We'll have the kitchen we've always dreamed of. My parents managed the Poplar Inn. It was time for her to retire. My parents did an amazing job there, but we felt it was time to ditch the idea of an older steakhouse. We wanted to make a kitchen more modern, more accessible…
The focus of what we do at The Orville is to highlight Wisconsin dairy. … In West Bend, go five miles in any direction and you'll come to a dairy. Some of the best cheeses and creams in the world come from this state.
Q: What's behind your restaurant names?
ONE:My grandfather was Norberto. Now that we've moved from the Poplar Inn, I wanted to honor my other grandfather, my father's father, Orville.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to share with people?
ONE:Much of our success can be attributed to one man: Colin Reigle. He is Norbert's executive chef and will eventually become the company's executive chef. I'm taking the reins from The Orville first, but he can do the most amazing things.
Q: After a fire, you will be holding a fundraiser on January 25th and 30th to prepare food for The Cheel. Tell us about it.
ONE:There is a security deposit of $25 per person. We'll use some of that money to buy the ingredients that Barkha (Daily) wants to use here at The Norbert. What remains, he recovers. Our plan is to raise $5,000 to $10,000 for them in one week. We believe we have a good chance of reaching that mark. We will also be selling some of our groceries.
This week is all about service. When I was a kid, there was a fire in my dad's family. It hit me.
Q: What is your current desire to cook at home?
ONE:If it's not my mother's meatloaf or ham and rolls from a big bakery on a Sunday after church, then probably gyoza or some sort of Asian dumpling.
Q: Do you have any memorable meals from your travels?
ONE:I didn't travel much for my last big experience. A truly great dining experience can be very hard to find, the lighting is right, the food is right, the sound, the smell, the taste. I recently had one. The food and everything was exceptional.brandivinoand Cedarburg.
Table Chat features interviews with Wisconsin residents or Wisconsin natives who work in restaurants or support the restaurant industry; or guest chefs. To suggest profiles of people, send an email to email@example.com.
TIED TOGETHER:After the fire destroyed the Cheel, this West Bend restaurant will temporarily serve up some of its dishes to raise funds.
BRANDYVINO:Cedarburg restaurant is finding a COVID niche with artisan pasta signatures
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