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Hot Young Chefs

Hot Young Chefs
Photo by Kelly Loverud

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.
 


Jamie Malone
Photo by Kelly Loverud

Jamie Malone, 29

Chef de Cuisine, Sea Change
806 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-225-6499
 

Born: St. Paul 
Raised: North St. Paul 

Education: Le Cordon Bleu, Minneapolis–St. Paul

Famous for: Deftly helming one of the country’s premier sustainable seafood restaurants

Surprising restaurant job: Working as a server during the first year of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s former restaurant at the Chambers hotel. “They flew in corporate trainers. We had to know everything about the restaurant; every ingredient in every dish,” Malone says. “I realized how refined you could be without being overbearing. You learn so much at the table. As cooks, we may think something is great, but if it doesn’t translate to the guest, you’ve dropped the ball."

Top non-fish ingredient: “Jidori [chicken] eggs. They’ve got a super-bright-orange yolk, and a rich farmy flavor.”

On being a female chef in a notoriously male profession: “It’s been a non-issue. I grew up in a neighborhood that was all boys, and my first job was in a caddy shack. The one challenge is that it’s easier for people to call me a bitch than if I were a man. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about [New York City restaurant magnate] Danny Meyer’s [dictum of] constant, gentle pressure. It works both ways: it keeps me calm and sends a clear message of expectations.”
 


Sameh Wadi
Photo by Kelly Loverud

Sameh Wadi, 28

Chef and owner, Saffron
123 N. Third St., Mpls., 612-746-5533
 

Born: Kuwait 
Raised: Kingdom of Jordan; Blaine

Education: Art Institutes International Minnesota

Famous for: Being the youngest contestant to compete on Iron Chef at the time (he lost to Morimoto, barely), and for his fresh, innovative approach to Middle Eastern cooking—his lamb-bacon BLT is a must-try.

How it all began: “Right after we fled Kuwait [because of the first Gulf War], we didn’t have much going on, but we still ate,” Wadi says. “Some meals were very traditional, but my mother would also make dishes like steak au poivre. Instead of going and playing soccer with my friends, I would sit and cook with my mom. I loved doing things with my hands, and my family was very supportive.”

Lucky break: “My job at Solera. The menu had flavors I recognized—preserved lemon, pimentón—and I got to work with chef Tim McKee, who’s a rock star and an absolutely down-to-earth guy. That’s when I started to develop as a chef. Jason Ross ran the kitchen, and it was impeccable, the most organized kitchen system I’d ever seen in my life. It changed me.”

Favorite dish on his current menu: “The green beans. That’s a dish I wouldn’t have had the guts to put on my menu five years ago. It’s just green beans, tomatoes, olive oil, and spice, cooked till they’re soft. There are no foams, nothing to hide under, no ridiculous reductions: just the beans and handmade pita bread.”
 


Mike DeCamp
Photo by Kelly Loverud

Mike DeCamp, 33

Chef de Cuisine, La Belle Vie
510 Groveland Ave., Mpls., 612-874-6440
 

Born: Minneapolis 
Raised: Wayzata

Education: First job was dishwashing at a Medicine Lake pizzeria when he was 13; started working for Tim McKee at D’Amico Cucina when he was 17, and has been cooking professionally ever since.

Famous for: Running the show at La Belle Vie, the region’s top fine-dining restaurant, and for his supremely delicate, routinely flawless cooking.

Where does Tim McKee, La Belle Vie’s chef and owner, end, and where does Mike DeCamp begin? “I’ve done all the menus here for the past few years, but I know what he likes and what he wants,” DeCamp says. “I am a little version of Tim. “Sometimes you want to be the guy, and sometimes you want to be the guy that guy counts on.”

On managing complications: “What’s hard about working here isn’t the ideas, it’s that every single thing you cook has to make someone’s night. That might take five pans, a couple squirt bottles, and more. If you’re organized and good, you’re fine. A lot of people realize they’re over their heads and bow out gracefully. We get almost no intern applications. They’re afraid.”

On VIPs: DeCamp has cooked for the king and queen of Norway, Rod Stewart, Nancy Pelosi, and countless local bigwigs. The most stressful? Vice-President Joe Biden. “We had to have background checks, they made us leave for the bomb-sniffing dogs, and when he came into the kitchen, all the knives had to go into a drawer.”
 


Mike Brown, James Winberg, and Bob Gerken
Photo by Kelly Loverud

Mike Brown, 26, James Winberg, 33, & Bob Gerken, 30

Chefs and co-owners, Travail
4154 W. Broadway Ave., Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131
 

Mike Brown

Born: San Diego
Raised: Savage

Education: Winona State and Le Cordon Bleu, Minneapolis–St. Paul

Career highlight: Travail was named by Bon Appetit magazine as the fourth-best new restaurant in the United States in 2011.

Career lowlight: Working the grill at Stampede Steakhouse in Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America. During one shift, Snoopy led a conga line of children into the kitchen. “Suddenly Snoopy’s giving me a back rub and the whole dining room is watching,” Brown recalls with chagrin. “I’m like, ‘Can I move these steaks, or will that burn all the small children?’”
 

James Winberg

Born and raised: Grand Rapids

Education: Bellingham Technical College’s Culinary Arts Program

Lucky break: “I was working at this old-school French restaurant in Tahoe, and I wanted out,” Winberg recalls. “I faxed my resumé to Bouchon. Every day. About 10 resumés later, they called me.”

On Bouchon:  Working there changed me. It was understood that nothing you did could ever approach being good enough. The standards were past human understanding.”
 

Bob Gerken

Born and raised: Springfield, Missouri

Education: Le Cordon Bleu, Scottsdale, Arizona

On working with so many chefs: “The biggest positive is that you have three different opinions,” Gerken says. “If you get stuck on a menu idea, you look over your shoulder and ask, ‘What should I do with this rabbit?’ They shout ideas at you, and you use them or you don’t.”

Day-off fave: The Blue Door Pub “The Frenchy." “It’s so salty, you need two beers to finish it, but it’s so good it’s worth it. I could see myself opening a bar some day with great food. That’s the way I like to eat—I don’t like all the hands-on service of fine-dining. It’s just not me.”
 

 

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.
 


Landon Schoenefeld
Photo by Kelly Loverud

Landon Schoenefeld, 30

Chef and owner, Haute Dish
119 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-338-8484
 

Born and raised: Aberdeen, South Dakota

Education: Art Institutes International Minnesota

Famous for: Soul-stirring, layered flavors that derive inspiration from, of all things, 1970s and 1980s Midwest-Americana.

How it all began: “As a single parent, my mom made a lot of hot dish. Actually, the name Haute Dish was her idea.”

Career turn: Working for Brian Crouch (now at La Belle Vie) at Marimar. “He told me, ‘A chef works fast. You work slow.’ I got better out of spite.”

Lucky break: Squirting mustard at a bartender at the Bulldog and getting fired, which turned into national news. “I don’t think there was much going on in the news that week. People freak out at work all the time—the chef after me ended up crying in a fetal position on the line. But from that day, everyone knew who I was.”

Why Minneapolis: “I love this city. It’s my town. There’s an art scene, a music scene. I like being part of the food scene.... I can call Steven Brown or Alex Roberts or Isaac Becker, ask them stuff, and they help me out. It’s not like that everywhere.”
 


Erick Harcey
Photo by Kelly Loverud

Erick Harcey, 30

Chef and owner, Victory 44
2203 44th Ave. N., Mpls., 612-588-2228
 

Born and raised: Cambridge

Education: Le Cordon Bleu, Minneapolis–St. Paul

Famous for: Founding the local idea of an avant-garde restaurant with no servers (much of his original crew departed to form similarly organized Travail), and for an ultra-rich style of cooking in which classic preparations are amplified with whiz-bang techniques and fearless grill-cook bravado.  

Lucky break: “I had worked with BT McElrath [the chocolatier], filling molds with chocolate, making toffee, that sort of thing,” Harcey says. “So they hired me at Nicollet Island Inn as a pastry chef. All of a sudden everyone quit except me and Eric Sather [now of Bar La Grassa]. Then he left for Clancey’s. I was the chef. I could do anything I wanted.”

Best restaurants besides his own: “Every meal I have at Piccolo I feel is the best meal of my life. And Pizzeria Lola—I can’t get enough of that.”

On raising four kids [ages 6,4,3, and 2]: “My wife’s a superwoman. When she leaves me home with them, I start crying, ‘What’s happening?’ Also, they’re all dairy snobs now. They won’t drink anything but Autumnwood milk, and they’re always grabbing the Rochdale hand-rolled butter to put on graham crackers. I can’t figure out if I’m supposed to be pissed off or proud.”
 


Adam Vickerman
Photo by Todd Buchanan

Adam Vickerman, 26

Chef, Café Levain
4762 Chicago Ave. S., Mpls., 612-823-7111
 

Born: Illinois
Raised: Lakeville

Education: Le Cordon Bleu, Minneapolis-St. Paul  Famous for: Intricately built but seemingly simple dishes, like short ribs and deeply caramelized Brussels sprouts served on savory oatmeal enhanced with garlic, onions, caramelized-onion pureé, and poached-and-pureéd veal bone marrow.

Pet peeve: “Harvey [McLain, Café Levain’s owner] won’t let us use pork or duck right now. It’s like telling a painter you can’t use blue or green. But I’ve become a bigger fan of vegetables, and realized that grains are wildly underappreciated. Barley can be like risotto, but it doesn’t overcook as easily, and it takes flavor beautifully, I put in caramelized pear pureé which makes it so rich.”

Favorite local eats: “I’ve been to Piccolo, Alma, Black Sheep Pizza, and La Belle Vie in the past two weeks—they’re all fantastic. And Brasa, I get the rotisserie chicken and spinach and go heavy on the pigeon peas and yellow rice. And Brasa’s butterscotch pudding is amazing. It’s the best $3 you can spend in Minneapolis, no question.”
 


Ann Kim
Photo by Todd Buchanan

Ann Kim, 38

Chef and owner, Pizzeria Lola
5557 Xerxes Ave. S., Mpls., 612-424-8338
 

Born: Busan, South Korea 
Raised: Apple Valley

Education: Columbia University, Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza

Famous for: Leaving a career as a professional actor (she toured with the Guthrie in Othello) to go to pizza school and open a restaurant—a restaurant that became the talk of the Twin Cities for its deeply flavorful crust and surprising toppings, like Guanciale, cheese and soft eggs, and spicy homemade kimchi.

How acting is like cooking: “There are lots of similarities. You’re working when everyone else is relaxing, and every night is new. You have your script/recipes, but the audience is different, the members of the company might be different, and you’re only as good as your last line or pizza. We purposefully designed the restaurant with the hearth as the centerpiece; this is my new stage.”
 

 

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
Photo by Todd Buchanan

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
Photo by Todd Buchanan

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
Photo by Todd Buchanan

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 & Kristin Tyborski
Photo by Todd Buchanan

Derik Moran, 25 & Kristin Tyborski, 31

Co-chefs de Cuisine, The Dakota
1010 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-332-1010
 

Derik Moran

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.”
 

Kristin Tyborski

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.”
 

 

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.
 


Paul Berglund
Photo by Todd Buchanan

Paul Berglund, 35

Chef at Bachelor Farmer
50 Second Ave. N., Mpls., 612-206-3920
 

Born: Hinsdale, Illinois 
Raised: St. Louis, Missouri

Education: After graduating from the University of Michigan and spending four years in the Navy, Berglund started in the café of the Oakland, California, restaurant Oliveto. Five years later, he was promoted to chef de cuisine.

Famous for: Immediately striking a chord with locals with his Nordic-inspired restaurant Bachelor Farmer, going from opening day to the Star Tribune’s restaurant of the year in a few short months.

Similarities between running a ship and running a restaurant: “The most important thing you can have at both jobs is the ability to convince everyone that if you all put your heads down and do whatever it takes, you will get the job done. The Navy taught me everything I needed to know about running a kitchen, except the creative and cooking aspects.”

Secret ingredient: Apple cider. “We use apple cider where other kitchens might use white wine. It adds a lot of dimension and makes sense in Nordic and Midwestern cooking.”

Favorite non-chef hangout: Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown. “They have the best pancakes I’ve ever had. My wife gets the whole-wheat blueberry, but I like the buttermilk. What a great way to start the day.”
 


Jason Schellin
Photo by Todd Buchanan

Jason Schellin, 33

Chef de Cuisine, Muffuletta
2260 Como Ave., St. Paul, 651-644-9116
 

Born and raised: Brainerd

Education: Art Institutes International Minnesota

Famous for: Making the something-for-everyone Muffuletta a beacon of fresh, healthy, creative appeal.

Cooking school as a mid-career move: “I started as a dishwasher at Madden’s when I was 15 and climbed the ranks, eventually working in Tahoe at a resort,” Schellin says. “When I went to culinary school, I’d already been running kitchens for five years, so it was really more of a networking thing for me. But it clarified a lot of what I thought.”

On locavore cooking: “People say I’m locavore, but really it’s inevitable: when you’re thinking about the quality and freshness of a product, you end up going local. It’s very hard to make a piece of celery taste good if it’s not good to begin with. I’ll always go for the high-quality, fresh ingredient that was picked that day as opposed to one that’s been sitting on a truck, or multiple trucks, for a week.”
 


Lisa Hanson
Photo by Todd Buchanan

Lisa Hanson, 36

Chef and owner, Mona Restaurant & Bar (forthcoming)
 

Born: Eau Claire, Wisconsin 
Raised: Winona

Education: Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York

Famous for: Her star resumé—L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, chef de cuisine at Corner Table—has everyone buzzing about her forthcoming restaurant.

On a second career as a chef: “I had a business degree and worked in software, but I wanted a change. I took a train up from New York to the CIA campus, saw everyone walking around with bags of knives on their backs, and knew that was it. They frown on accepting someone without professional cooking experience, so I volunteered in a soup kitchen to meet the requirement.”  
 


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