Tim Niver called me just exploding with excitement. “Did you hear about Adam?”
Niver and chef Adam Lerner partnered on Meyvn, and they also worked together for seven years to open Saint Dinette in St. Paul. Niver was calling to tell me that the best restaurant team in town had hired away his chef. “What an endorsement of Adam, and of what we’ve been building in St. Paul,” he told me.
Indeed. Lerner trained with Mike DeCamp at the now-closed La Belle Vie, and Niver and DeCamp are among the local chefs I wish had more of a national profile. Both are brilliant and creative. Lerner created Saint Dinette’s iconic burger (I profiled it and him for WCCO), and also spent time working with fire creating that glorious Montreal-style bagel at Meyvn (RIP).
Now Lerner will have a larger stage to play on, taking over as executive chef of Vestalia Hospitality in mid-May. Vestalia is Ann Kim and Conrad Leifur’s company that runs Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza, Young Joni, and Sooki & Mimi.
“Adam is an incredibly talented chef who shares our values of leading with curiosity, creativity, heart and presence,” said chef/owner Kim in a statement. “I’m especially excited to welcome Adam as it will give me the bandwidth to continue exploring additional creative possibilities.”
Lerner told me how excited he is about this, and that he’ll help lead the chefs at the individual restaurants. He will assist with training and innovation, and will help the company’s senior team come up with new ideas.
“We’re poised to embark on significant growth as we look to deepen our commitment to empowering our leaders and restaurants,” said Vestalia Hospitality CEO Becky Lemon. “Welcoming Adam into this new role and helping support Ann as she engages with us in a new way is a giant step that opens up a new and even more exciting future for us.”
It’s exciting to see Kim and Leifur getting the chance to be creative visionaries and inspire Lemon, Lerner, and other top leaders, like marketing director Rachael Crew. At least for now, the growth Lemon talks about is intended to happen within the existing footprint, but we shall see. (Please, put a Hello Pizza in Maple Grove for me.)
It also means that Niver is interviewing for a new executive chef at Saint Dinette, as well as a top chef at Mucci’s, as Kenzie Edinger is moving on—so get those resumes in.
New Chef at Hewing Hotel
Meanwhile, the Hewing Hotel has moved up the executive chef who was running the company’s sister hotel in Des Moines. Now, Marque Collins is at the flagship in Minneapolis, replacing Nyle Flynn, who moved back to Detroit to open Bar Pigalle this summer. “It was time to move on and fulfill my own goals,” Flynn told me. “Marque is a great chef.”
“I’ve been cooking in the Midwest for more than a decade now,” Collins said in a statement. “Our team has done a great job cultivating relationships with local farmers and makers over the years. I plan to continue building these partnerships to showcase the rich culture and traditions Minnesota has to offer.”
The hotel tells me Collins plans to bring back a nose-to-tail butchery program. The restaurant has an in-house butcher, and that provides some opportunities to include new dishes on the menu regularly. The team will still partner with local farmers, including Peterson Craft Meats, Hidden Streams Farms, and Dragsmith Farms.