David Heide is the current owner and head chef at Liliana’s. Named after his youngest daughter, Liliana’s opened on her first birthday, November 1, 2007. Since then, Heide has been providing customers with fresh-off-the-farm produce, meats, cheeses, and eggs. It’s Wisconsin food with a Creole twist.
Heide studied at Le Cordon Bleu and then moved to San Diego where he met his wife and worked at El Bizcocho. After El Bizchocho, he moved on to Sicilliano’s in Vista, California. He said that he learned how to cook at Le Cordon Bleu but learned how to work at Sicilliano’s. When he moved back to the Madison area, he worked at CoCoLiquot, Carl’s Cakes and had a very short stint as the chef for the Tri Delta sorority house before opening Liliana’s.
New Orleans, WI
Heide’s parents met in New Orleans. His father was a photographer for the Barbershop Association and his mother was the daughter of the president of the Barbershop Association. She was tasked to show the photographer a good time and the rest was history.
For Heide, Thanksgiving was always a culmination of Midwest and Creole culture. While people napped after the turkey, his uncle made jambalaya. At seven years old, Heide was handed a cleaver (which he swears was 12 feet long and 2 feet high) and told to cut up the Andouille sausage. A chef was born. Now you can still find his uncle’s jambalaya on Liliana’s menu.
As local as it gets
Not only does Heide work with 32 local farmers and 15 local (mushroom) hunters. He also grows his own herbs and raises his own chickens. His 15 chickens provide the eggs for all the egg dishes on the menu.
Heide’s passion comes out when he talks about buying and serving local food. “Even all the green-ness aside, it’s a really good idea to buy locally. When you buy locally, things taste better.” As he argues, food was not meant for transport and tastes better when tended on a smaller scale.
For the love of whole food
Heide is adamant about incorporating love and whole food ingredients into his cooking. You won’t find any pre-packaged mixes, soups or breads in his kitchen. Everything is made from scratch.
“A lot of people have lost the love of cooking,” he told me, and “when you cook without love, you cook without flavor.” When you go Liliana’s, you can be sure of two things:
- Your dish was made from scratch with whole foods and ingredients that were chosen because of flavor, not convenience or cost.
- You will leave the restaurant feeling happy and satisfied.
Heide and I had a long discussion about the prevalence of convenient and diet food options that seem to be taking over people’s lives. Yes, you can eat 100 calorie packs of chips, but what are you eating and how long before you are hungry again? Do your cravings for fast food actually equal your actual experience? This passion is the underlying theme of Liliana’s: Real food from real farmers with a real dining experience = satisfaction on many levels. Love in the cooking translates into love with the entire dining experience.
Come for the food, stay for the music
Tuesday through Saturday nights, Liliana’s features free, live music. Local blues and jazz artists entertain guests on one of the three patios or in the bar area. Liliana’s has also hosted several local high school jazz bands. As a high school band member, Chef Heide regretted that the only places he got to perform were in gymnasiums, cafeterias and auditoriums. Bands from Verona, Memorial, West and Middleton performed at Lilliana’s in the last year.
Click here to see a calendar of events for the restaurant.
Weekly Specials at Lilianas
Monday Light Night: All entrees are 500 calories.
Thursday Wine Night: For $10, you can taste two featured wines and snack on two tapas dishes.
Cooking with Chef Heide
Click here for 5 Cooking Tips from Chef Heide.
Check back tomorrow for Chef Heide’s go-to one dish chicken dinner recipe.