Minnesota food culture well represented among James Beard nominees

Lenny Russo in Slovenia
Lenny Russo, chef and owner of Heartland Restaurant in St. Paul, visited with Jerca Oman and Franiva Kopavnik, in Ratece, Slovenia during a cultural exchange last year. Russo was nominated for a James Beard Award today.
Photo by Chris Wurst

Three Twin Cities chefs joined a northern Minnesota cookbook author, a pair of Minneapolis-based documentary filmmakers and a St. Paul-based radio program on today's list of James Beard Award nominees. The prestigious James Beard Awards annually recognize the best in food — from restaurants to cookbooks to writing and programming — across North America.

The 2014 "best chef" nominees, announced today from Chicago and culled from a long list of semi-finalists, include Minneapolis chefs Paul Berglund of The Bachelor Farmer and Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart bakery and St. Paul's Lenny Russo, of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market. Gayer was a semi-finalist in 2012 and 2013, and a nominee in 2010. Russo has been on the shortlist, as either a nominee or a semi-finalist, for the past four years. This is Berglund's first appearance on the list.

Michelle Gayer
Michelle Gayer, chef and owner of the Salty Tart bakery in Minneapolis, was nominated for a James Beard Award today.
Brandt Williams / MPR News

• The Daily Circuit: Heartland chef travels to Slovenia for food cultural exchange (April 12, 2013)
• Photos: Cocktails at The Bachelor Farmer

Author Amy Thielen was nominated for "The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes" and for her Food Network program, "Heartland Table." Thielen lives in Park Rapids, Minn., about 45 miles southwest of Bemidji.

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• Appetites: Amy Thielen brings a national audience to the "Midwestern Table" (Oct. 17, 2013)

Thielen, who's worked in Manhattan kitchens under some of the world's top chefs, focuses her work now on cooking, teaching and developing recipes around Midwestern cuisine, which she defines as getting back to our roots "A lot of the modern chefs and contemporaries here in the Cities and in other great cities across the Midwest are reaching back to their grandparents' time a little bit and digging up all the great things they used to make," she told MPR News' Tom Crann in October. It's about preparing what she calls traditional, rural foods in a deliberate, thoughtful way.

"If you just paid attention to your onions, and you paid attention to your potatoes and your meat and everything else, you can make it something really beautiful. And so that simplicity and attention to detail is what I'm bringing to this book and that's something that I see in a lot of great cooks — that's what they do."

Recipes from Amy Thielen:
Baked Apples with Sour Cherries, Rosemary, and Yogurt WhipRhubarb Baked in Wild Raspberry Syrup
Midwestern Fried Chicken and Gravy
Quick Homemade Stock
Crispy Cabbage with Poppy Seeds

Lynne Rosetto Kasper
Lynne Rosetto Kasper, host of public radio program The Splendid Table
Courtesy of The Splendid Table

The James Beard Foundation also nominated American Public Media's "The Splendid Table" radio program, which is produced at APM's headquarters in downtown St. Paul, in the radio show/audio webcast category. The weekly program, led by host Lynne Rosetto Kasper, has won two James Beard Awards — one in 1998 and another in 2008 — for its coverage of food, appetites and culture on the air.

The Perennial Plate, a website and documentary project dedicated to telling the story of sustainable food around the world, garnered a nomination in the "video webcast, on location" category for its coverage of sustainable eating in Europe and South Asia. Producer/creators Mirra Fine and Daniel Klein are based in Minneapolis.

The Perennial Plate on The Splendid Table

James Beard Award winners will be announced in early May during ceremonies in New York City.