By Susan T. Hessel  

If you have wondered just how chefs “do that,” or if you never knew there was a culinary term called plating, then the
new Art for Dinner program at the Pump House Regional Arts Center is for you.

It’s a cooperative venture with Savory Creations chef Shawn McManus. “We are intent on stimulating all your senses,” he said.

Participants will experience a multicourse meal with wine pairings that will bring out your culinary senses:

  • Sight with an artistically stunning presentation
  • Sounds from tableside chef exhibition cooking 
  • Smell with the overall food aromas wafting throughout the Pump House Gallery and dining room   
  • Touch involving interactive courses that engage diners to create physically on their plates
  • Taste through the food courses, including paired wines

“This dinner in the environment of an art gallery will show a balance of art forms through food,” McManus said.

The first Art for Dinner event begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, in the Pump House Kader Gallery. The $79 per person for this first meal (prices will vary with the menu) includes all the food and wine pairings. Other Art for Dinner events scheduled in 2019 will take place on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, Feb. 14; Thursday, April 4; and Friday, July 19. 

“It is going to be an open question and answer dinner,” McManus said. “It is an education-based dinner with all the feel of fine dining.”

A native of California, McManus has worked in corporate food service, healthcare, private chef services and fine dining. He is the chef consultant/owner of Savory Creations LLC., a cooking school that presents mobile culinary educational experiences and private classes. He also appeared on Spike TV’s “Frankenfood,” a reality food competition television show; won “Top 75” in the nation during a Chef’s Roll “The Art of the Plate” competition; and has received top rankings from numerous other local and nationwide competitions. He is a certified instructor for the “Chef’s Move to Schools” programs at the University of Mississippi’s Institute of Child Nutrition—a program that was part of former first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.

With his emphasis on locally grown, sustainable food, his meals and wine are locally sourced.

Toni Asher, Pump House executive director, said the idea for Art for Dinner came from a brainstorming session on future events. “The Pump House is a multidisciplinary arts organization. We look for innovative programming that creates opportunities to engage with various art forms in new ways.”

Located at 119 King St. in La Crosse, the Pump House has film and dinner events, as well as an annual gala reception with exceptional dining. Art for Dinner is unique in that it centers on gourmet dishes created and presented in the art gallery, with diners present and interacting with the chef. “It’s our first venture that focuses on culinary creativity with an educational component,” Asher said. 

The Pump House resides in the former City Water Works building, constructed as a one-story building in 1880 with a second-floor addition in 1895. It had multiple uses after the water works moved in 1914. The arts use began in 1979 in this last remaining example of Romanesque Revival civic architecture in the city. 

The goal of the Pump House is to make arts accessible. “We do many different things here that incorporate a wide variety of arts experiences,” Asher said.

Visits to the gallery and historic building tours are always free.

Tickets for the Oct. 11 dinner are $79 each. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Pump House by phone at (608) 785-1434; in person at 119 King St., La Crosse; or online at 


Hunger Game Salad

(Assorted fruits and root vegetables)
Yield: 2-3 servings



  • *All ingredients are cut into perfect ½-inch squares
  • 1 Granny Smith apple (peeled)
  • ½ cup sweet potato (peeled, cubed and blanched in water until al dente, then chilled)
  • 1 cup compressed watermelon, peeled and cubed (vacuum-sealed overnight in a FoodSaver bag)
  • ½ cup coconut gel cubes (found in local Oriental markets)
  • ¼ cup guava juice
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar
  • 2 tsp. chia seeds
  • 3-4 tbsp. 100% Door County, Wisconsin, cherry juice
  • 1 tsp. rice wine vinegar


Heat guava juice, agave nectar and chia seeds on medium-low until thickened, about 5-6 minutes.

In a separate pan, reduce the cherry juice on medium heat until thickened to a syrup consistency. Add the vinegar and reduce for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Coat the compressed watermelon with the cherry juice gastrique. Assemble the cubed ingredients in a “Rubik’s Cube” fashion. Garnish with the guava gelée.

Slow-Braised Osso Buco

(Italian veal shank)
Yield: 3-5 servings



  • 2-3 veal shanks (1.5 inches thick)
  • 1 cup rough-chopped yellow onion
  • ½ cup fine-diced celery
  • ½ cup fine-diced carrot
  • 2 tsp. fresh chopped garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 cup rich veal or beef stock
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 tbsp. butter 
  • 1 tbsp. Penzeys Chicago seasoning salt or desired seasoning salt mixture
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the butter and heat until browned.

In a shallow bowl or plate, combine the flour with the seasoning salt and dredge the shanks in the seasoned flour. Shake the shanks to remove any excess flour, then transfer shanks to the pot and cook until well-browned on all sides, working in batches if necessary, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove the shanks to a roasting pan or deep lasagna pan large enough to hold the shanks in one layer and set aside. 

Add the onions, celery and carrots to the Dutch oven and cook until softened and lightly browned around the edges, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the pot with the red wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add tomato paste. Transfer to the roasting pan along with the stock and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Cover the roasting pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the shanks are very tender. Add braising liquid to a sauce pan and reduce.