Hot Young Chefs
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You’ve heard it said, again and again: chefs are the new rock stars. And they’re rocking it right here. Forget what you’ve read about coastal cuisine. The Twin Cities has one of the country’s most vibrant original restaurant scenes, full of great food, fresh young talent, and a future so bright we ought to wear shades. Who’s in this Generation Next? Keep this issue handy for 20 years, because these are the chefs who will define the next taste of Minnesota.
Marshall Paulsen, 32
Head chef, Birchwood Café
Birchwood Café, 3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474
Born and raised: St. Paul
Education: University of Wisconsin–Stout
Famous for: Making clean, good food at one of Minneapolis’s busiest sustainable restaurants.
Lucky break: “I was working at the Creamery when the chef left. So my friend Mark [Buley, now of Oak in Aspen] and I went to the owner and said, ‘This is what we can do, this is how much we want to get paid.’ It was pretty much a playground. We were kids in the kitchen with no supervision. Plus, we met Maurice and Gail from Dragsmith Farms at the farmers’ market before they were doing much with restaurants. So when I went to the Birchwood, I didn’t know much about technical cooking, but I knew a lot about farms and how to make customers happy.”
On cookbooks: “I’ve got maybe 300—I like Alice Waters and Alton Brown. I love Eric Ripert’s On the Line. But as far as the most mileage, I must be on my third copy of The Flavor Bible. It’s really helpful when you’re cooking from what the farmer brings.”
Ben Pichler, 31
Chef de Cuisine, Grand Café
3804 Grand Ave. S., Mpls., 612-822-8260
Born and raised: Marshfield, Wisconsin
Education: Le Cordon Bleu, Minneapolis–St. Paul
Famous for: A cuisine that seems French (it’s not) due to deep locavore sourcing and classical techniques which rely on painstaking made-from-scratch everything.
Restaurant secret: “We’re a chicken-stock-heavy kitchen,” Pichler says. “We use all our chicken carcasses, as well as turkey feet from Wild Acres—they add collagen and make the stock really silky. One sauce we used to make looked like a heavy motor-oil reduction and took about five gallons of stock to make a quart. But it was worth it.”
Home cooking secret: “My Swedish pressure cooker. I love it. I can make beef stew in an hour, and for corn on the cob, I just put a couple Mason jar rings on the bottom so the corn isn’t in the water, and let it go for five minutes. It’s awesome.”
Last great restaurant meal, not his own: “I go see [head chef] Eric Sather at Bar La Grassa and let him send us whatever he wants. Last time we had the rabbit orecchiette and the saffron chicken—so good.”
Stephanie Kochlin, 30
Head chef, Pig & Fiddle
3812 W. 50th St., Mpls., 952-955-8385
Born: St. Paul
Raised: White Bear Lake
Education: Le Cordon Bleu, Minneapolis–St. Paul
Famous for: Being Lenny Russo of Heartland’s right-hand chef for seven years. Now she’s doing locavore braises and pub food at new gastropub Pig & Fiddle.
Culinary school tip: “I went to Hawaii for my internship to cook at Roy’s Nicolina, Roy Yamaguchi’s restaurant. I rolled the plane ticket into my student loan and stayed for a year-and-a-half,” Kochlin says. “It was excellent. I only came home because I missed my family.”
On beer: “I didn’t even really like beer before I took this job. I underestimated it as an ingredient. Here, any beer in the 36 taps can be mine. Mussels cooked entirely in Wittekerke beer with a little bacon and butter? There’s nothing better.”
Food hero: “I was a line chef when Bar La Grassa opened, and I have so much respect for Isaac Becker. He’s uncompromising: he’ll take a dish, work on it for weeks, and if it’s not perfect it won’t run. People say it’s a waste of money, but he’ll reply, ‘How much does it cost to put an imperfect product out?’ It’s one thing to say that, but another to see it done.”
Derik Moran, 25 & Kristin Tyborski, 31
Co-chefs de Cuisine, The Dakota
1010 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-332-1010
Born: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Raised: Birchwood, Wisconsin
Education: On the job. “I started working in a friend-of-the-family’s restaurant when I was 11, peeling potatoes and cleaning the kitchen. I moved to a local pizza place when I was 13, then got my first fine-dining job at 14,” Moran says. “I feel like it’s more valuable to learn hands-on.”
Famous for: Seemingly effortless, sensual, molecular, locavore gastronomy at Nick and Eddie, where he was head chef until this fall.
First act on taking over the Dakota: Installing sous-vide equipment. “It’s the most efficient way to get good food out, quickly.”
In his fridge: A three-year-old sourdough starter. “I make a lot of baguettes, dark rye, and, of course, soda bread—I come from a very Irish family. Someone with the family name still has the old castle in Ireland.”
Born: Tacoma, Washington
Raised: Fargo, North Dakota
Education: Colorado Mountain College Culinary Institute
Famous for: Delicate, sculptural dishes like her “tuna scape” (as in “landscape”), in which segments of sushi-grade ahi are rolled in pulverized nori seaweed, seared, and set like little skyscrapers all in a row.
Surprising job: Working as a cocktail server one night a week at Solera—before she was named sous chef. “I felt guilty: I would walk out of there with so much more money than I’d make as a cook—but I’d always rather have been back there with the boys.”
Favorite restaurant to visit with her six-month-old son: Be’wiched in Minneapolis. “I’m a sucker for their tuna sandwich. I can’t get enough of it. Sometimes I finish it, and I’m mad because I can’t eat it anymore.”