Dream Dance Chef Creates "New Wisconsin" Cuisine
Last Updated: 2/26/2013
When it comes to food preparation, Jason Gorman is the king of the kitchen. For the past five years, he's been chef at Potawatomi Bingo Casino's award-winning Dream Dance Steak restaurant in Milwaukee.
But back in high school, Gorman dreamed of spotlights and a stage presence as a rock star. He later temporarily managed a touring band. “I came back broke and figured then that was no future for me,” he laughed.
While working his way through college as a dishwasher, Gorman became interested in cooking. Appreciation of his mom's Italian pasta and sauces was another incentive, as well as living in Atlanta where he grew to love the Southern style of food prep.
Self-taught, Gorman subsequently made it to the pinnacle of his craft. Early in his 22-year-career, he's chopped, diced and sliced in some of the nation's top restaurants, learning trade secrets under such culinary masters as the fabled Arkady Miretsky, Kevin Rathbun, and Stephan Pyles.
“At some point, however, a chef needs to decide whether to go out on his own,” Gorman explains about his move to Milwaukee. His first task was to give Dream Dance a special identity. “It's not just what you cook, but how you prepare it,” he says.
Gorman's mission thus became one of preparing modern interpretations of traditional Wisconsin dishes. “There is a comfort level to food here,” he says, pointing out that even simple items can be elevated to another level. Subsequently, a Dream Dance guest is probably familiar with a certain dish, but can simultaneously experience new taste treats with it.
“I try to be cognizant of what's contemporary, but enjoy looking at old cookbooks. I take a classic dish and make it my own,” Gorman indicates. “I want to create excitement.”
“If I go to another city or state, I should be able to go to a restaurant and get something special to that region,” Gorman points out. “Why leave the house if all you can get is a standard crabcake or sirloin,” he asked.
As such, through his “New Wisconsin Cuisine,” this inspiration led to creation of appealing items, including an enormously popular lobsterwurst. “What's more Wisconsin than bratwurst,” he chuckles, discussing one of his long-popular signature appetizers, albeit one zinged up with a definite Gorman twist.
There's more. A standard kraut burger has become Strauss Veal Bierochen. Lowly cabbage rolls morphed into Alaskan King Crab Golabki. A yummy Sprecher Root Beer venison remains dear to the hearts of Dream Dance regulars.
Naturally, he attempts to use as many Wisconsin ingredients as possible, from shock-and-awe Lakeside horseradish to the marvelously applewood-smoked Nueske bacon, as well as cheese, lamb, and fresh produce. Yet he isn't afraid of reaching out to get the best from elsewhere, including dealing closely with Christian Damiano, the casino's restaurant operations manager, in helping pair international wines to augment his menus and at special events.
Potawatomi realized early on that Gorman was a creative personality. The casino allowed the chef to design and assemble a state-of-the-art kitchen, complementing his hands-on style. Before each dish leaves the kitchen, Gorman plates the food and establishes its final look.
“I love cooking. I'm not a doctor or a lawyer. But for 90 minutes, if I can make someone happy with food and create memories, that's great,” he says.
Oh, yes, Gorman's hobby remains playing his guitar. Yet he now makes the best music amid his pots and pans.