Sheboygan area expands its culinary reach

The Sheboygan County that I know, having grown up there, is the culinary hub for hardrolls, brats and the world’s best burgers. We have dozens of torte recipes, most of which contain Cool Whip. We have good fish fries at reasonable prices. We are picky about our potato salad; we use butter – liberally and unapologetically.

OK, so I’m as surprised as anybody that – beginning this month – a 26-episode series about European cooking will be filmed in Sheboygan for public television consumption. It is another example of the grand contrasts that exist on my home turf.

We have modest dairy farms, and world-class golf courses. Polka dance halls, five- and four-diamond lodges. There is evidence of hearty, home-cooked grub – and the finest gourmet dining.

“The Kitchens of Biro,” to be filmed at the Marcel Biro Culinary School and the 36-seat Biro Restaurant and Bar, will provide a behind-the-scenes view “of the struggles, successes and secrets of a staff dedicated to culinary excellence.” The emphasis will be on classic European cuisine; Biro is a master chef who has worked throughout Europe and used to be the personal chef for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

What will make this visual food experience different from others that appear on cable TV? “We make food the star,” says Shannon Kring Biro, the chef’s wife. “The people are secondary.”

Camera crews will film the staff as they prepare meals, select chocolate, create a cookbook, memorize wine lists and menus. Each show ends with restaurant guests critiquing their meals.

For a chance to appear on the show, call (920) 451-0333 to make a Tuesday or Wednesday dinner reservation at the Biro restaurant, between now and June. The first episode, Shannon says, will air in July; times and dates will not be known until about two months before then.

Marcel and five other chefs operate the restaurant and the culinary school, which Shannon says attracts both individuals and corporations (for “team building” exercises). The crew teaches both culinary novices and veterans.

This summer, the master chef is planning 10-day culinary trips to Italy, France, Germany and Spain; cost will be about $1,500 for lodging and most meals (airfare is extra).

“We’ll go back into the kitchens of leading restaurants,” Shannon says, plus shop for ingredients at local markets, visit local vineyards and prepare meals as a group.

The work involved with organizing such an excursion also will be a part of the PBS series.

This is a new business venture for the Biros; for more about it, go to or call (888) 694-0016. The TV series is being produced by DWP Inc., the Milwaukee-based company that also produces “Discover Wisconsin” and “Into the Outdoors.”

Also in the neighborhood, through April, will be weekly, one-hour “Demonstration Kitchen” programs at The Shops at Woodlake, Kohler. Chefs from the five-diamond American Club will demonstrate specific types of cooking: Spanish tapas to chocolate desserts, romantic dinners to Cajun cuisine.

The cost to attend is $15 ($25 for two people); reservations are necessary and seating is limited to 50. For more, go to to see a list of program topics or call (800) 344-2838. The audience will sample food that is prepared.

Two special culinary events in Chicago also have whetted my appetite for more.

“Stir It Up” is the name given to a Jan. 8-11 extravaganza that involves about two dozen food workshops, lectures and demonstrations. Be it the creation of healthy snacks for children, or “Fondues of the World” and “The Global Soup Bowl” (an evening of tasting exotic soups, wines and hors d’oeuvres), this is a great menu of culinary diversity.

Some events have no cover charge; others are as expensive as $75. For more, go to or call (877) 244-2246.

Wait until spring, and you’ll have a chance to partake of the city’s March 26-28 Culinary Immersion Weekend. Participants will help prepare a three-course dinner with some of Chicago’s best chefs, chat with author Marilyn Pocius about “A Cook’s Guide to Chicago” and be whisked around the city for a three-step dinner that involves an entrée at Thyme Restaurant, dessert and jazz at Green Dolphin Street.

Headquarters is the Wyndham Hotel; program cost includes lodging and is $450 for a single, $670 for a double. For more, go to or call (877) 244-2246.

If the culinary arts isn’t your thing, maybe the blues, jazz, opera, theater or art/antiques is – those are the themes of other Immersion Weekends in 2004.

Last, if your budget prohibits much out-of-town travel, consider “The Latimer House Cookbook,” which is the work of Jean Fetzer Walters of the Latimer House Restaurant in Delavan. She and husband Bob have owned this 1900 Victorian mansion restaurant for seven years, and they organize murder mystery dinners in it.

“I grew up on a farm in Rubicon, Wis., and learned to prepare and preserve foods from my mother,” Jean writes. “Many of my recipes reflect her German heritage.”

There are more than 250 recipes. To order the book, call (262) 728-7674; it costs $16.95.

“All glory comes from daring to begin,” Jean notes in her introduction, and it’s a good reminder for whatever roads you decide to travel in 2004. Happy New Year to all of you!