Joan Ida: Making Waffles!

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard this one: Joan Ida, lately the chef of high-end Porter & Frye, one-time endlessly awarded pastry chef at (dear departed) Goodfellows, and former top toque at fine dining Tria, has taken over the top position at… the Highland Grill. The Mac-Groveland diner. What the heck is someone known for super-fine dining doing in the land of waffles and fish and chips?

I tracked down Ida at the Blue Plate Restaurant Company’s corporate HQ in Maple Grove. Blue Plate is the company that owns the Highland Grill, the Edina Grill, the Longfellow Grill, the Groveland Tap, and Three Squares, and Ida had only been there a few days.“How do you find out these things?” she gasped. But then she clammed up and put me through to corporate.

Turns out that Ida is merely going to be in charge of Highland Grill. Chef Dave Hawley will remain as the executive chef of the whole Blue Plate group; and Ida will be taking over Highland at the end of the month, but won’t be changing much. “She’ll be immediately taking over the specials program,” David Burley, one of Blue Plate’s owners, told me. “And we share specials between all the restaurants so if she comes up with something great you could see it at all our restaurants. But [the Highland Grill’s] concept isn’t going to change at all. We just wanted to amp the restaurant up culinarily, and give it a little shot in the arm.”

So, break into groups and discuss: This recession brings so many surprises! What next, Jean Georges Vongerichten taking over a Bruegger’s Bagels near you?

Highland Grill
771 Cleveland Avenue S., St. Paul