Farewell Erik Anderson! Raise a Bargain-Priced Glass to Him During Wine Week!

Winston Churchill said of Champagne, in success you deserve it, in defeat you need it—and since this news is a little of both, let’s raise a glass of bubbly to Erik Anderson, a great up-and-coming Minneapolis chef who’s up and going.

Where’s he going? To Nashville, Tennessee, where Anderson is joining forces with another ex-Minneapolis chef, Josh Habiger, to open an as-yet-unamed restaurant. Anderson’s last day at Sea Change? May 28th.

Ah, Erik Anderson. Let’s review: Anderson moved here from Chicago, where he was a successful rock and roll road manager for bands, including Alkaline Trio. He knew he wanted to cook, and started eating around Minneapolis in search of greatness. He found it at Auriga, the long-closed restaurant of chef Doug Flicker (now of Piccolo) that will likely be remembered as one of the most important crucibles that Minneapolis’ now-thriving dining scene was formed in. (Some others: the old D’Amico Cucina and Loring Café.) Fate intervened. “I literally knocked on the kitchen door,” Anderson told me, “And Doug said he had lost a cook that day, can you come back at five?” Anderson and Flicker worked together for years and developed a close friendship, eventually traveling Spain together and eating at El Bulli. After Auriga, Anderson landed at the briefly phenomenal Porter and Frye; after that he took charge of the day-to-day kitchen at Sea Change, under Tim McKee. To backtrack though, at Auriga Anderson met chef Josh Habiger, who worked at Auriga off and on a few times; Habiger also worked at Alinea, where he got Anderson a stage, a chance to work in the kitchen for several weeks. Josh Habiger left Minneapolis a few years ago, ultimately working for Grant Achatz at Aviary, and then at the Patterson House in Nashville. But Habiger and Anderson stayed in touch the whole time, dreaming of their perfect restaurant. And now they’re off to create it.

Details on the restaurant are still sketchy. Anderson declines to say where it is, though he says the space and financing are secured, and that it will likely open in the fall as a small, prix-fixe only contemporary restaurant, with Anderson and Habiger acting as co-chefs. He also discloses that the new restaurant will have something in common with Michael Carlson’s Chicago restaurant Schwa, and New York’s Degustation.

Heady company? Yes, but keep in mind that Anderson, in addition to being named to the Food & Wine top 100 was also nominated on the preliminary long-list of James Beard Awards, for Best Chef Midwest; he has also worked in some of the world’s most important kitchens, including French Laundry, Alinea, and he will, before moving to Nashville, be working in the current best-restaurant-in-the-world, Denmark’s Noma. I asked this rather nicely awarded chef what he’d be bringing to Nashville—besides a kitchen full of chefs who will disseminate the Doug Flicker style of cooking to a nation that doesn’t know how great that cooking is. He told me he might bring the wild rice soup and pork terrine from Porter and Frye’s opening menu—two of the greatest dishes to ever grace Minneapolis, and both Anderson’s invention—as well as fish from Coastal Seafood.

“I never set out to be a sustainable seafood chef,” he told me, referencing his last few years at Sea Change, “but I have learned so much here, and having a good relationship with your fishmonger, it can’t be overstated.” And any last words on the Minneapolis dining scene? “I think it’s awesome. I could have left at any time [over the last decade] but I stayed because I loved cooking with Doug so much, and then I got to work with Steven Brown, and Tim McKee. I set out to work with those three, and I accomplished that. But the other side of the coin is that I haven’t had any family around, and, my whole family is in Nashville. It will be really, really nice to have a beer with my brother, or go out to lunch with my dad.”

Okay, okay, we’ll let you go. So raise a glass to a great young chef heading out on a great journey. I hope Nashville is ready, because Minneapolis is jealous. I mean, I wish them well! No, I guess I’m jealous and still wish them well. Road trip?

And while you’re raising a glass, why not raise two? Minnesota Monthly’s Wine Week kicks off today, with fantastic bargains on great wines at more than 20 local restaurants. All of the restaurants are offering a sort of two-for-one: Buy one glass of wine and the second is ten cents. Most are also offering other great deals on big-name wines. Check ’em out at MNMO.com/wineweek.

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