Appetites looks back on 2023: Restaurants, Vietnamese meatballs and the secret to entertaining

two people pose in front of theatre
MPR News Tom Crann and Chef Sammi Loo at The Chateau Theatre in Rochester.
Courtesy of Benazir Kerezoudis

This year Appetites took a tour of the state, interviewed a writer who’s been keeping close tabs on the Twin Cities food scene for 25 years, and tasted dozens of delectable dishes.

Here are a few of our favorite conversations with the chefs, cookbook authors and tastemakers who make the Minnesota food scene vibrant:

Amy Thielen, author of ‘Company: The Radically Casual Art of Cooking for Others’

a pink book cover and a woman cooking
Minnesota author and chef Amy Thielen is out with her third book, which she refers to as her “so-called entertaining book.” In it, she encourages hosts to drop the Martha Stewart act and reframe entertaining as the “radically casual art of cooking for others.”
Courtesy of Kristin Tiegs
In her new cookbook, Amy Thielen argues hosting should be more party than performance

What’s the secret to cooking for others? In her new cookbook, chef Amy Thielen advises giving up on Martha Stewart perfectionism.

She practiced what she preached as she hosted the Appetites team in her home near Park Rapids: “If the host is all nervous and worried too much about things being absolutely perfect, it really kind of infects the group in a bad way,” Thielen said with tongs in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. “Is it a party, or are we performing food here?”

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Chef Scott Graden, owner of New Scenic Café

a group of people at a restaurant
Appetites stopped in Duluth and MPR News host Tom Crann talked with New Scenic Café owner and chef Scott Graden about the iconic North Shore restaurant.
Courtesy of Keely Zynda
Appetites stopped in Dulut and Tom Crann talked with New Scenic Cafe owner and chef Scott Graden

The New Scenic Café has been around long enough that it’s no longer new but this North Shore icon manages to keep things fresh. Chef Scott Graden talked to All Things Considered host Tom Crann about how the Duluth restaurant continues to remain relevant by pushing the region's culinary boundaries.

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, food writer

two people smile for a photo
MPR News host Tom Crann (left) with Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl in the Kling Public Media Center in St. Paul on Sept. 21.
Matt Alvarez | MPR News
Listen to Tom Crann's conversation with Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

Over the years, award-winning writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl has been a frequent guest on Appetites.

When she released her book “The Essential Dear Dara: Writings on Local Characters and Memorable Places,” it was only natural for her and Tom Crann to settle in for a wide-ranging conversation about writing, food and life in Minnesota.

Eric Pham of the Quang Restaurant family

Person makes food in kitchen
Eric Pham cooking meatballs in Khue's Kitchen at Bar Brava in Minneapolis.
Tom Crann | MPR News
Eric Pham of Quang Restaurant legacy is forging his own path

Eric Pham grew up in Minneapolis’ Quang Restaurant family. Now a chef in his own right, he talked to Tom Crann about opening his own place — Khue's Kitchen, named for his mom Khue Pham — and showed us how he makes his favorite dish: bánh mì xíu mại, Vietnamese meatball sandwiches. 

Loretta Barrett Oden and Beth Dooley, co-authors of ‘Corn Dance: Inspired First American Cuisine’

A cookbook cover
Cover image for "Corn Dance: Inspired First American Cuisine" by Loretta Barrett Oden with Beth Dooley
Courtesy of University of Oklahoma Press
Native chef Loretta Barrett Oden creates a cookbook of Indigenous and Southwest inspired recipes

In this charming conversation, renowned Native chef Loretta Barrett Oden credits her friend Beth Dooley for getting her to write her first cookbook.

The two share anecdotes about their collaboration, discuss the evolution of the Indigenous food scene and share a recipe for Three Sisters and Friends Salad.