Kevin Kathman—Top Chef Lands Another Top Spot

Well, this is intriguing: Kevin Kathman, the Cold Spring, Minn. native who spent three years working with Thomas Keller at French Laundry, has landed.

If you didn’t know he had left the Kim Bartmann empire (Red Stag, Café Barbette, Pat’s Tap) well—don’t blink! It’s a very busy industry. Kathman was let go last month, a few weeks after launching Pat’s Tap, and the new chef of note at Café Barbette is Chris Hinrichs, a veteran of La Belle Vie, Barrio, and Pizzeria Lola. But that was then! Now, Kevin’s hiring staff and making plans for the mid-January opening of… drum roll please…

Jack’s! Yes, formerly known as Java Jacks, the little restaurant and coffee shop on 46th Street will go dark for a week sometime after New Year’s for staff training. When the doors re-open it will be:

• In the morning, Jack’s will be the same coffee shop it’s been for the past 14 months. “We’ve been associated with Roastery 7 since our inception,” Jack’s owner Jerry Nelson told me, on a conference call with Kevin Kathman and his wife, Pam Nelson. The Nelsons own the building and Jerry Nelson will be acting as the opening general manager as well. “We still consider our coffee as gourmet and high-end coffee,” said Jerry Nelson. His wife jumped in, in the way of conference calls: “And as a neighbor, it’s good courtesy and a good neighborhood resource.” (Full disclosure, Pam Nelson used to work here at Greenspring, the media company that puts out Minnesota Monthly and the other magazine I work on, Real Food.) 

• At lunch, the restaurant will remain a plain coffee shop until spring, at which point it will start to serve a full lunch menu.

• At dinner: The big news! Starting in mid January, Kevin Kathman’s food will be served Tuesday through Saturday nights. Menu details are still being worked out, but they’re definite about price-point (everything under $20) and toying with the idea of doing a prix-fixe menu like the one at Restaurant Alma—say a mix-and-match of several options allowing you to pick three or four courses to make a full meal, and still stay around $20. The food will be not unlike Travail’s and Piccolo’s, Kathman told me, in the modern American vein, and he’s thinking there will be a lot of powerful vegetarian options. A full beer, wine, and liquor program is anticipated, and chefs, hold on to your sous chefs: “We’re assembling a team from around the city,” Kathman told me. “Some pretty big names. We’re going to feel comfortable rolling out with some serious cooking right out of the gate. This is the first time I’ve gotten the direction since I moved back to Minneapolis: Just cook. I can’t wait.”

It’s almost enough to make you look forward to January in Minnesota.

818 West 46th St., Mpls.