Chef Series Event features Pierre Zimmerman


Leah Heidemann

Pierre Zimmerman, left, a master baker from Chicago, joins Kyle Cherek at the Jan. 24 Chef Series Event at Madison College

Katie Paape , News Editor

It is not every day that you get watch award-winning chefs practice their craft and speak about their passion right in front of you as you eat and drink delicious food created by Madison College culinary students. The Chef Series is an experience that will give you all of this and more. The best part is that this monthly series is free to all Madison College students.

The Chef Series is an event presented by the Madison College culinary arts department with Kyle Cherek, host of Emmy award-winning PBS show “Wisconsin Foodie.” The event features regional chefs interviewed by Cherek while they demonstrate their culinary mastery in the kitchen in front of an audience. Afterward, the audience is then welcome to eat the mouth-watering sights and smells they spent two hours drooling over. The two-hour wait is well worth it.

On Jan. 24, Pierre Zimmerman, master baker from Chicago, held the place of honor at the table for the January Chef Series. His upbringing in a small town in France allowed him to combine old baking techniques from home into Chicago’s modern food culture. His experience in French cuisine has made his bakery, La Fournette, a huge success in Chicago.

The evening began with drinks and appetizers provided by students of the culinary and baking arts program at Madison College, and was followed with passionate conversation between Cherek and Zimmerman. They spoke about what it means to be a baker, and Zimmerman offered insights from his own life. “You can’t get too arrogant,” he notes humorously, “because nobody is awake when bakers are working.”

They also spoke on intergenerational bakeries in Europe compared to the United States.

“Because America is a young country,” says Zimmerman, “it never had the chance to develop deep-rooted culinary traditions before the rise of the machine as Europe did. Here in the U.S., a 100-year-old bakery is a novelty, but in France, intergenerational bakeries are as common as bakeries themselves.”

It is no surprise, then, that Zimmerman himself is a fourth-generation baker, and his son is gaining international recognition as a baker as well.

Preceding the interview, Chef Zimmerman enters the kitchen and begins his demonstration on how to make the famous, sophisticated French cookie, the macaroon.

Zimmerman engaged the audience with every gesture. He brings them through every detail to ensure success. The macaron bakers-in-training will be aptly prepared when venturing on their own into the complexities of the deceptively simple cookie.

As the smells of rich, buttery caramel infused the atmosphere and the audience could take it no longer, samples of Zimmerman’s macarons made their way around the room. Chef Zimmerman spent the day working with Madison College’s baking students, helping them prepare the macarons for the enjoyment of the audience. 

As members of the audience indulged in the crunch of perfection, Zimmerman graciously answered audience questions to open his world of baking to them. Zimmerman’s passion to make people happy through baking is infectious, and his modesty in the midst of his achievements is a rare, beautiful quality.

When Cherek was asked what his favorite restaurants are, he revealed that it is not the restaurants themselves he likes, rather the people behind them that make all the difference. Zimmerman is a pure example of a passionate heart behind an extraordinary establishment.

While the Chef Series is mostly attended by Culinary Arts students, any student with an interest in cooking or baking will benefit from the knowledge and entertainment of acclaimed chefs and bakers. For a memorable night with some delicious cuisine, come to the next Chef Series on Feb. 13 in Diane’s Gourmet Dining Room here at Madison College.