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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tim McKee Taking Over Cafeteria?!

Tim McKee Taking Over Cafeteria?!

Take a deep breath and find a comfortable chair—Tim McKee is working on Cafeteria now.

Cafeteria, of course, being the Uptown super-bar with a mish-mash menu and a killer view, and Tim McKee of course being the James Beard Award-winning white-tablecloth, fine-dining chef at La Belle Vie. (McKee was also named a 1997 Food & Wine Best New American Chef for his cooking at D’Amico Cucina, and he’s the top toque at the Twin Cities’ leading sustainable seafood restaurant, Sea Change.)

Food-scene watchers will recall that McKee recently made news by his surprising partnership with local super-restaurant-group Parasole (Manny’s, Chino Latino, Burger Jones, and many more); he took over the kitchen at Il Gatto—the former Figlio—making the restaurant relevant again by installing Sea Change’s former sous chef Jim Christiansen, and completely revamping and improving the menu. Looks like Parasole liked the results so much that they've brought McKee in to make some magic next door at Cafeteria.

What next? Tim McKee takes over the foodservice at the Susan B. Anthony Middle School?

The details: No chef changes, just a menu reboot—the results of which will be slowly rolled out all month. If you want the full flavor of the change, plan on going in late February or early March. If you want southern shrimp and grits, plan on going tonight. That’s one of the new dishes with “really, really good grits,” says McKee, with barbecue-accented shrimp and a spicy butter sauce. Another new dish: House-cured and fully cooked (as opposed to the usual seared rare) ahi tuna turned into a tuna salad for a tuna melt. And handmade jalapeños poppers filled with aged cheddar.

Are you as surprised as I am? Tim McKee jalapeños poppers? It’s happening.

And yes, McKee has a Japanese restaurant opening in March as well. Masu Sushi and Robata.

As I wrapped up my interview with McKee, I asked: I assume you’ll have a German restaurant by August?

“You know, no one enjoys the humor of that more than me,” McKee laughed.

Posted on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 in Permalink

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

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Feb 3, 2011 08:49 am
 Posted by  Allison L.

Am I the only one who is worried that Tim McKee might be stretching himself too thin? If La Belle Vie loses an ounce of its splendor just so Cafeteria can raise itself to mediocre (from its current status of "gross"), then aren't we all the losers for it? Kudos to Tim if he can pull it off, but I'd hate for him to become some Wolfgang Puck--slapping his name on so many restaurants that they all become mediocre.

Feb 3, 2011 12:12 pm
 Posted by  Dara

Yeah, I think that's a lot of people's concern. But he has well trained, very talented kitchens in place at his own restaurants (Mike DeCamp at La Belle Vie, Erik Andersen at Sea Change, Shawn Smalley at Smalley's, and of course he's not involved with Solera any longer) but... You never know.

My understanding is that the second tier of chefs, the day to day kitchen heads, is getting stretched kind of thin in the Twin Cities generally, not at McKee's restaurants specifically, but just everywhere. I predict over the next year we're going to see more and more chefs coming in from out of state, like Bruce Lamb, who came from Seattle to go to Rochester's Sontes, and Kevin Kathmann, who came back from California to head Barbette, and ... who next? Name chefs like J.P. Samuelson and Phillip Becht (who just left the Modern) suddenly have some bargaining power and... there it is. There have definitely been worse times to be a skilled line cook in this town!

Feb 9, 2011 05:39 pm
 Posted by  Dove

Hmmmm..... Tim McKee has a BBQ joint in Stillwater. Why shouldn't Uptown Cafeteria guests have the same quality experience as Il Gatto and all the other restaurants Tim has a hand in? Snarky review Dara. I am thrilled Tim McKee is working on food that is actually quite hard to deal with - everyone has an opinion about a grilled cheese sandwich and meatloaf. Kudos to you Tim for making average stuff elevated to really good food! I'm heading over to Uptown Cafeteria ASAP!

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TC Taste answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally bring the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Minnesota Monthly Senior Editor Rachel Hutton, Sustainable Food Correspondent Marie Flanagan, Home Cook Stephanie Meyer, Chef Jason Ross, Savvy Mom Kristin Boldon, Food Writer Joy Summers, and Drinks & Real Food Senior Editor Mary Subialka. Learn more about the TC Taste bloggers.

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