When the press release rolled in saying that Scott Pampuch, leading Twin Cities chef and sustainability pioneer, had taken on the job of executive chef for Bloomington’s Minnesota Valley Country Club, I didn’t bat an eye. Oh, good for him, I thought, he pulled in some consulting money…. But then he called and I became quite concerned and alarmed.
“I’m not going to be at Corner Table anymore,” he said. “Corner Table is running on a crew of amazing cooks, Chad Rielander and Dan Zeroth, and the guys in the kitchen are stepping up.”
Really? There’s hardly a restaurant more chef-identified than the Corner Table—well, except for Lucia’s and Spoonriver and Heartland.
“There are people who are going to be upset,” Pampuch told me. “I get it. They’re going to look in the kitchen and say, ‘Oh, the fat kid isn’t there. Sad.’ But what you don’t know is, I can’t tell you how many times I go over to the kitchen table and say, ‘Hi, I’m so happy you’re here,’ and the guests look up at me and say, ‘And you are….?’” I told Pampuch I didn’t buy it. “Look, I’m not trying to say I’m irrelevant around here, but people need to understand it’s not a one person show, it never has been. The menus are collaborative, my guys run the show on their own a lot of the time, and I have faith in them, they’re going to do really well.”
Okay, I’ll buy it—the structure has certainly been a win-win for chefs and the city as a whole for plenty of local analogues; Tim McKee at La Belle Vie (and Masu, Sea Change, and all the Parasole restaurants), Alex Roberts at Alma (and two Brasas), and Isaac Becker at Eatery 112 (and Bar La Grassa). Now, what about this country club?
Pampuch told me he’s very excited about it because it’s a sustainable, green, friendly place which has been Audobon Certified because of their bird-helping practices. He’ll be shifting all their food, the clubhouse, banquets, and so forth, to his all-local, thoughtful, sustainable model. “I have 40 seats at Corner Table, and to grow, to really help farmers, I’m kind of maxed out,” Pampuch told me. “Between [Minnesota Valley Country Club’s] members, banquets, and events, I’ll be able to serve more local food there in a week then I can do here in a month.”
All in all, this seems especially like good and important news for: People planning weddings. I’ve heard again and again from couples who wish they could do a farm-style wedding, with fabulous food and all the amenities, but farms are busy being farms, and typically don’t have bathrooms, and Champagne flutes for 200. But now there’s another option!
Well, best of luck to all. Do I have to take up golf now?