Minnesota Monthly food critics Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers. Photo by Tj Turner.
Sunday, November 13 marks the sixth annual Charlie Awards, Minnesota’s premier food event to recognize the best of the best in the Twin Cities dining scene. This year’s hosts are the charismatic Minnesota Monthly food critic duo, Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers. Jason is an anchor for WCCO, and Joy is editor of Eater Minneapolis, but together they banter about the latest Twin Cities restaurants, and blog about new food trends and dishes for MnMo.
Get to know Jason and Joy before they take the stage this weekend, and learn more about the Charlie Awards here. You can purchase tickets for the awards and after party, plus the VIP chefs’ dinner at charliesexceptionale.com.
Favorite childhood dinner spot?
Jason: Jameson’s Char House in Mount Prospect, IL (I used to order veal picatta with a side of fries) and Olive Garden (my suburban Chicago family’s special occasion spot).
Joy: My mom is a fantastic cook and I barely ate anywhere else. (I was the only freakazoid kid that hated Kraft Mac and Cheese—and god help you if there was only grape jelly. Ew.) For special occasions we went to this very fancy restaurant called The Harbor. They had escargots (second in grossness only to grape jelly). But there was also prime rib and lobster. We lived in the country and I remember one night we all dressed up and then put on our helmets and snowsuits before boarding our snowmobile and drove over on the frozen lake. That is some serious Iron Range fancy.
Would you rather eat dessert or sip on a drink?
Jason: Yes. Both. OK, dessert! We have the best pastry chefs in the country. I always share dessert with my wife.
You have only 24 hours to plan a dinner party. What will you make?
Jason: I’d probably make something interactive, a taco bar with lots of toppings, homemade salsa and guacamole.
Joy: A grazing plate of Red Table meats, cheese and a baguette, roast chicken and salad, and plenty of wine. Roast chicken is one of my favorite foods and I’ve found crispy chicken skin has miraculous bonding powers for carnivores everywhere.
At what moment did you know you were a foodie?
Jason: Dinner in 2002 at Ristorante Bartolotta in suburban Milwaukee. I never knew food and service could be so good. Since then my wife Alyssa and I spend most of our time (and our money) enjoying food.
Joy: The refusal to eat mac and cheese should have been a tip off. My family is a bit nuts about food—it’s all we talk about. We know our farmers, have a preference for a carrot guy, will drive up to an hour for perfect eggs, and argue over who gets to cook the next meal. I think when I went to my friends houses and found that there were other topics of dinner table conversation was my wake up moment. Seriously, you should meet my Aunt Lyn—her dinner table looks like a Gourmet magazine photo shoot.
Favorite place to eat/play with the kids?
Jason: Tie between Pizza Nea, Brasa, and Black Sheep.
Joy: I love going to Fika in the warm months. There’s a cart of toys in the green space that allows the kids to run around, and the food is divine. We also go to Brasa a lot. Because I’m so obsessed with food, I’m extra crazy over making sure my kids get ethically sourced and raised foods. Oh, I can’t leave off the sausages at Prairie Dogs. They do highbrow/lowbrow so well.
Sugar or spice?
Jason: SPICE! I like it hot. And earthy.
Joy: Spice all the way. Although, I’m not going to kick a Mojo Monkey doughnut out of bed.
Favorite hobby besides eating?
Jason: Thinking about eating. I love art, especially glass art and abstract.
Joy: Reading, writing about food, planning on eating, watching cooking TV—the obsession runs deep.
Jason: I love dive bars as much as I love high-end food. Service is the most important thing for me, even above the technical quality of the food. Finding places that readers can bring their families is huge for me: I wish people would dine out more with their kids!
Joy: In the summer, my favorite thing to do is crank the tunes and hit the open road. My husband and I love exploring back roads, dive bars, and family-run joints. My roots are deep in Northern Minnesota—I grew up in Grand Rapids, have family in Virginia, and Duluth is my adopted hometown where my mom lives now. I can’t wait to share some of those Minnesota (and occasionally Wisconsin) treasures.