À La (Food) Carte

Wilder Cooking's Chef Carl Krause

Chef Carl Krause busy in the kitchen. ## Photo bY Rafael N. Ruiz Mederos
A spoon of bay leaf ice cream with black garlic, sunchokes and pine nuts at a recent Wilder Cooking dinner hosted by AWEN Winecraft. ## Photo provided
Wilder Cooking’s French roll (made with chef Krause’s starter Marvin) with rogue creamery blue, bacon and pickled apricot. ## Photo provided
Wilder Cooking’s menu offerings during a dinner at AWEN Winecraft. ## Photo provided

By Paula Bandy

What can I say? Wilder Cooking’s chef Carl Krause had me at fried chocolate chip cookie dough. A gentle poke with a fork unleashes the melty chocolate within the dough… rich lusciousness oozes onto my plate. I am completely in the moment. Each flavorful bite is captivating. Savory, sweet, unconventional, untamed– not only is Chef Carl a true artisan of cuisine but also the epitome of epicuriosity.

Raised in Downers Grove, not far from Chicago, Krause didn’t much care for his mother’s cooking. “No salt, overcooked… it was torture for a kid who enjoyed eating.” He says, “I started cooking for the family so I could eat. I got into it and was told I was good, which was rewarding.”

In high school, Krause worked at a hot dog place and a BBQ restaurant, where, he says “I was the only non-Hispanic in the kitchen and significantly younger than everyone else. Looking back, it was WOW! I was introduced to restaurant culture there.”

Krause attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York, where he met his wife, Malorie, the pastry chef half of the duo. He chose Chef Mavro in Honolulu, the only AAA Five Diamond-rated restaurant in Hawaii for his internship.

After graduation, the couple moved to Boston where Krause began his culinary career “picking herbs” at Menton, one of the Barbara Lynch Collective destination restaurants. It proved a seminal experience for the 22-year-old. He excelled, quickly advancing to tournant, a position immediately under sous chef. Considered the “all-purpose chef,” he had to learn several areas very quickly and often cook. Smiling, Kraus recalls, “That required optimum brain efficiency. It was awesome.”

When the couple moved to Portland, a new challenge presented itself… Marvin.

Marvin - The Toast of the Town

November 1, 2012, is Marvin’s birthday. Immediately after moving to Boston, Krause and his wife started Marvin, now their 12-year-old sourdough starter. “It’s an edible history,” he explains, “and something about that fascinates me.”

However, when flying to Portland he says, “The Transportation Security Administration questioned what Marvin was and why he had to be let through.” Ultimately, Krause convinced them he was safe. “Marvin is a living organism and has become a map of where he’s traveled; he’s even been to the Caribbean. He’s sort of created his own terroir,” says Krause.

From brioche buns and pizza crust, to mouthwatering spaetzle, Marvin is the starter for all the Wilder Cooking bread and yeast-based products. Rich notes of woodliness arise from the starter; Marvin has become a household name, at least in his fans’ homes. “I never intended for him to play such a significant role in what I do,” says Krause, “but people know who Marvin is, which is pretty crazy.”

Becoming Wilder

While in Portland, Krause worked at biwa, managed Noraneko Ramen Shop and worked the pop-up scene with Nomad.PDX. “There we were working out of a kitchen smaller than my food truck, making 15 courses, 36 covers, with fresh silverware between each course– then washing all the dishes by hand. It was wild.”

In 2017, he jumped at the opportunity to become chef at Minam River Lodge. Located in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the old hunting lodge is extremely remote– requiring guests make an 8.5-mile trek each way. Krause found the May–October position challenging, yet rewarding. “It was impactful both professionally and personally,” he says. Everything had to be flown in or out– no machinery was allowed, not even a bicycle. “The people there are different than those from the city,” says Krause. “They care about the garden and make their own things. It’s a very different culture. I’m more like-minded that way.”

During his three years at Minam, the couple’s first child, Wilder, was born– changing his course. Appreciating the seamless work and life at the lodge, they moved to Medford with the idea for a “supper club kind of thing.” But first, Krause connected with local wineries, cooking wine dinners. In February 2019 and 2020, he served as guest chef at El Pretexto, an exceptional culinary farm stay in the mountains of Cayey, Puerto Rico. At the beginning of the pandemic, Krause worked at Rogue Valley Medical Center, along with catering private events for Troon Vineyard. The food truck idea developed during this time.

With his impressive portfolio, background in fine dining and wine dinners during Oregon Wine Experience, Krause brought people together with inspiring, shared experiences. That’s when the food truck rolled in.

First called Earnest Baking Co., it has transitioned from traditional food truck to a kitchen on wheels. Now, more aptly named, he says, “I didn’t want to be restricted by any limitations. Wilder Cooking is a kitchen I can tow behind my truck.”

Krause, with his thoughtful, unassuming vibe, frequently wears a twisted handkerchief around his forehead. He radiates finesse and harmony, while making everything look easy. Krause smokes, grills and even ferments by hand. To create his own black garlic, soy and fish sauces, he constructed an innovative fermentation chamber using a hairdryer for heat control.

With a talent for layering inventive flavor fusions (coffee shoyu and tonkatsu aioli) and mixing textures (bison top sirloin filled with braised short rib), Krause uses avant-garde techniques for his unusual offerings. “I tend to avoid putting things on my menu I can’t make from scratch. But, locally-owned Rogue Creamery has the best cheese in the world, so why wouldn’t I use it?” (Be forewarned: the butter he makes from the cheese slathered over a Marvin brioche bun results in swooning.)

Edible Jazz

Sean Hopkins of AWEN Winecraft in Medford, explains how he and co-owner Tom Homewood felt an instant connection to Krause the day they met. “He’s just Carl, with this cool vibe. He incorporates layers of nuance in his food like we do in our wine. It’s not just the fruit, but also secondary flavors. Carl creates dishes where all the tastes work in harmony.”

Last year, they pooled their talents and started prix fixe dinners. Pairing culinary skills with winemaking flair was unique in the Rogue Valley. This began with cooking and tastings but has evolved into “a kind of edible improv jazz,” says Hopkins. “Carl takes inspiration from the wines, working them directly into the menu, like soaking artichokes in our red wine for five days.” He adds, “Few chefs can do that, and even fewer winemakers work with a chef that way. It’s been this lovely back-and-forth, which I think comes down to balance and experience. He’s just awesome to work with.”

Wilder Cooking

Wilder Cooking is parked at the AWEN tasting room every Friday night. The ever-changing menu revolves around AWEN wine and local ingredients. Expect a wine paired with each large and small plate. Choose the degustation option to enjoy everything on the menu, or select the chef’s choice omakase to sample five dishes.

Whether parked on gravel, dirt, or cement, wherever you find Wilder Cooking, Carl and Malorie Krause passionately build a culture around locally sourced foods and wines. Think of it as edible jazz, amplified.

Paula Bandy, a writer transplant from the flatlands of Illinois to the mountains of Southern Oregon, is currently the bi-weekly wine columnist for Rogue Valley Times. She’s covered wine, lifestyle, food and home for Southern Oregon Magazine, and additional national and international academic publications. She was a writer and on-air commentator for Jefferson Public Radio, the Southern Oregon University NPR affiliate, for a decade. She’s also a Certified Sherry Wine Specialist (CSWS) and jewelry designer, pb~bodyvine. Connect with her at

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