All Things Considered

After long detour, Chef Sameh Wadi revives Saffron, the restaurant that never left his mind

Person makes food
Restaurateur and Chef Sameh Wadi.
Courtesy of Roy Son

World Street Kitchen and Milkjam Creamery are standouts on the Minneapolis food scene. But Sameh Wadi, the owner and chef of both, hasn’t let go of the restaurant that first brought him acclaim. Saffron, opened in 2007 and closed eight years ago. And now he’s bringing it back.

Saffron focused on the simple Middle Eastern cuisine of Wadi’s childhood, and it “has never left my mind,” he said. “The impact on my career, on me personally, and the impact it had on our city.” he said. “It always stayed with me.”

He’s ready to bring back the restaurant that propelled him into the Minnesota food scene — but this time, more evolved after the time and experiences he’s had.

“I did open it when I was 23 years old,” he said. “I’m pushing 40 right now and so I feel like this is going to be just a grown-up version of that restaurant I opened up as a child.”

Person with shawl on shoulder
Restaurateur and Chef Sameh Wadi.
Courtesy of Roy Son

Wadi plans to bring back favorites like his grandmother’s slow-cooked green beans, which he said was “a defining dish for me in my culinary career.”

The dish stood out for its simplicity. It was also Wadi making a statement.

“At a time when everybody was trying to do fancy stuff with foams and sauces and what-have-you, I went back to the cuisine that I grew up with.”

He featured lost recipes from his parent’s cookbook of Palestinian cuisine and focused on foods from the Levant region.

food on a table
A variety of Middle Eastern dishes prepared by Saffron chef Sameh Wadi.
Courtesy of Roy Son

While this return will be a new version of Saffron, Wadi said he will still remain rooted in the Palestinian culture and cuisine that made him.

“The minute that I stepped foot in this country, I knew that I had to be an ambassador of my people, of my culture and of my cuisine — and that’s always been on the forefront.”

To hear the full interview with chef and restauranteur Sameh Wadi, click play on the player above.

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