Ex Fabula’s first EXperience of 2023, “Kitchen Confidential,” was held at Aperitivo in Milwaukee. This night’s theme focused on stories pertaining to kitchen work and the service industry. This slam was more intimate than our standard story slams, as it caters to our members. It did not focus on a competition between the storytellers and also provided interactive activities and games for audience members. Board president and EXperience attendee, Jeremy Podolski, shared that he had a unique experience at this event:

“I was excited to attend Kitchen Confidential because EXperience events are always one-of-a-kind, but I had no idea I’d end up sitting at a table with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. Thanks to Ex Fabula, we had a chance to introduce our wives, catch up on life and enjoy a great night of meaningful stories, fun games and good food. I’m grateful for the surprise and the shared memories.”

Being tonight was culinary-themed, we played a game called Everything But The Kitchen Sink, where various spices and kitchen utensils were laid out upon and each participant was to guess what they were. It was harder than one may think! Later on in the night, every table was given worksheets to explore a sort of “recipe of love,” whether it be for themselves or a loved one (being that Valentine’s Day was upcoming). This fun activity allowed individuals to consider the ways ingredients play crucial, individual roles in the greater part of a whole, much like the various members of a restaurant or kitchen contribute to the diner’s overall experience and industry as a whole. Think about yourself or a dear friend- what makes you, you? Is it a dash of creativity, a heaping spoonful of humor, or a sprinkle of stubbornness?

Up to the stage first was Megan McGee, Executive Director of ExFabula. Megan had always been a theatre kid and needed some extra cash working during the daytime- the way in which many of us fall into the service industry as young adults. She recalls applying for a front-of-house position and dealing with an extremely kind chef whose compassion and patience stuck with her over the years. She later found out that the person previously in her position had embezzled around 50k from the small restaurant.

Michaela Lacy was the second storyteller of the night. She was here to tell about her love affair with greasy comfort food- and who doesn’t love some good soul food over a salad? This was the way she’d always been, and salads never piqued an interest. Michaela never saw the problem. While on her shift at McDonald’s, she was fresh off a new breakup that entirely devastated her. Unable to eat or drink, she began her shift on E, and soon passed out cold on the McDonald’s floor. Before long, her coworker delivered her a fresh salad that got her back on her feet in no time- from that point on, salads took on a whole new persona.


Featured teller Michaela Lacy with board member Prince Grayson.

Michaela Lacy

Alea McHatten, the third of the night, talked about their catastrophe with rice. As many of us have done in our young lives, being broke and living with roommates, Alea often made rice to stretch them all a week- give or take. They enjoy getting fancy with spices and often found themself reaching for cumin. When their roommates sat down to eat, they found Alea’s rice tasted of literal dirt because they used cinnamon, and a lot of it. Despite Alea’s best efforts, this not only happened once…but twice!

Stacy Rosenzweig has held a yearly tradition of posting about red beans and rice during election time, and she was finally telling the story of the why behind the tradition. Stacy had always grown up in a house of privilege and was relatively sheltered from the harsh realities many others faced. While down in New Orleans working after hurricane Katrina, Stacy found herself housed with those that didn’t have much, and a dish of red beans and rice was served as part of tradition on Mondays. It quickly became a symbol of what she had to be grateful for and a sign to get one’s act together and get things done!

Lee Ann Kingston was a waitress in the 1970’s and also a part of the anti-war efforts, which many around her disapproved of. She decided to return to school while being married to a minister. It wasn’t always looked highly upon for women to pursue an education and actively protest, especially in those days, but Lee Ann was nonetheless engaged. She soon found herself at Vista Gardens in Mukwonago, WI. She fondly recalls working the restaurant during Maxwell Street Days and the chaos that often ensued. Through this, she learned the value of the service industry and the various skills it could teach someone. Lee Ann learned priceless skills in areas of friendship, sacrifice, math, and attention to detail- an “ode to the service industry,” she calls it!

Meghan Koven lovingly told the story of the time she made an entire 4-layer lemon cake from scratch for her dear friend birthday’s- (let the amount of work that a Betty Crocker recipe is for most of us sink in). Meghan felt she could successfully and painstaking create and transport this massive undertaking to the Brown Bottle (a local bar) for the big reveal. The only catch to this plan was that this cake was to be made of buttercream and transported in the midst of the hot summer sun. Needless to say, the beautifully decorated cake melted into boob looking blobs on the tray by the time it exited her car! “I’m still known for my boob cakes,” Meghan declared!

The last storyteller, Matt Mudler, a chef at Wonderland Diner in Riverwest, remembered one hectic Fourth of July day at his previous employment, Comet Café. He and other employees were preparing for the usual brunch slam, and adding to that, it happened to be Summerfest as well; their only problem was that their shelves were without a single egg. Matt gave clear instructions to not let the front of house know the kitchen was out of eggs. As he hastily made his way to Pick ‘n’ Save for a few dozen cases to bide some time, he was soon enough contacting a food servicer, bargaining and pleading for more ASAP. Before long, he noticed his Sous Chef in a state of sheer terror as the staff began to get slammed for the rush- meanwhile, their young dishwasher has walked out halfway through the shift, leaving yet another role to be filled. Sheer and utter chaos was a gentle way of putting this lunch shift. Matt still recognizes the strong camaraderie and sense of dedication through the trenches that get many folks in the restaurant industry through shifts like this.

The Kitchen Confidential EXperience highlighted the highs and lows of the restaurant and kitchen industry. The stories shared explored the ways in which the industry teaches skills that are useful in all areas of life, whether professionally or personally, and stick with people for an eternity. Anyone that’s worked in a kitchen environment will no doubt agree that the sort of showmanship, camaraderie, and “taking one for the team” is some of the strongest one would ever hope to witness amongst their fellow human beings. Thanks to all who came out and supported ExFabula and Aperitivo tonight! Come visit us at our upcoming slam, “Exes,” on February 28th.

Check out a special BONUS Kitchen Confidential story from Richard Kehrin, owner of Aperitivo, here!