One of the greatest losses to the Twin Cities restaurant community from the Great Recession was the Bayport Cookery, the ground-breaking, phenomenally creative little artisinal boutique in Bayport, Minnesota that was run by much-awarded chef Jim Kyndberg. Last I knew. Kyndberg was cooking at the Kitchen in Stillwater, but when I got talking the other day to Erick Harcey, owner and top chef of both the Kitchen and north Minneapolis’ excellent Victory 44, he told me that while Kyndberg was still helping him out here and there, the chef had largely moved on to new projects. What? Like what? When I finally reached Kyndberg this morning and found out, my brain almost tipped right out of my head in shock.
First off, this very night he—the best morel mushroom chef Minnesota has ever had—is cooking a morel dinner on a boat, for the Afton House Inn.
Second, he is now the creative director for Crave! Yes, you read that right. Crave, the restaurant long poo-poohed by the food cognoscenti for offering nothing but a greatest-hits of top restaurants (pizza, sushi, butternut ravioli, steak, you name it!) is suddenly going to try to get that mish-mash of stunning success to make sense culinarily. Well, good for them. If anyone can do it, Kyndberg can; his themed menus (chocolate, garlic, morels, more) incorporated an astonishing array of influences in a way that both worked intellectually and philosophically and tasted great. Kyndberg tells me his first task will be to bring in some higher-quality local suppliers, rework about 10% of the menu, and come up with a few specials, the first of which will debut in Minnesota Crave locations in June. If you didn’t know there were non-Minnesota Crave locations, there is one, so far, in Orlando, another Florida one is about to open, and a Nebraska one is in the works. And there will be more, possibly many more, coming. I am so intrigued that I’m actually planning a summer re-visit to Crave. My last visit to one, at the Mall of America, ended with an impassioned speech along the lines of: “We just spent $100 on lunch and there’s nothing to eat, nothing worth writing about, nothing to recommend to anyone, and I now have to go to dinner to find something worth writing about. This place is dead to me. Good service though.”
But that’s not all! Kyndberg has a hobby project on the side that is going to be of supreme interest to local foodies, namely, a local-meat centered barbecue truck! “Me and a group of friends decided it would be fun to buy an old laundry truck and stick a kitchen in the back,” Kyndberg told me. They have a couple of hardwood smokers attached to a commercial land-based kitchen too, so they smoke their meats, then take them on the road to serve. Signature items include, says Kyndberg, a “Lift Bridge taco. We take Lift Bridge beer and incorporate it into a sort of fry-bread recipe. Then we do a 16-hour smoke of pork shoulders basted with Lift Bridge beer. It’s so good.”
Intrigued? The public debut of LocoVores BBQ will be May 29, in the patio of the Kitchen in Stillwater. Information is to be had via Facebook, and Facebook is also the way to contact Kyndberg and his crew if you want to hire them for your graduation party or book them for another event. Other menu items? Hot dogs made in the kitchen at the Kitchen, burgers of 1,000 Hills Cattle ground beef blended with smoked Duroc bacon and topped with AmaBlu cheese, and more. “The whole concept is to utilize as many Minnesota farm products as possible, on a barbecue theme.”
One of my friends called while I was typing this up and I told him the amazing news: Jim Kyndberg, at Crave, and in a truck! “Is this good news for him?” asked my friend, which was an odd question in that he had never met Kyndberg personally, but like so many of us feels a close connection to him because of his amazing food. “It’s good news for me!” I replied, perhaps callously. “Cooking skills, integrity, and creativity are being valued in the marketplace. Crave stands a good chance of being improved, local farmers have access to selling their wares to a super-power of a restaurant, and I get to try Kyndberg’s take on barbecue! Would I rather have the Bayport Cookery back? I don’t know, but that’s not being offered to me, and I’m very enthusiastic about what is.”