Chef Stephanie Kochlin talks St. Paul pride, her Iron Fork competitors, and hatred of foams

Categories: Events, Interview
Each week, we'll interview two of the chefs participating in our 2013 Iron Fork competition. On November 7, these six culinary masterminds will go head to head to see who can create the most appetizing and healthful dish using a secret ingredient provided by Lunds. For more information on the event, or to purchase your tickets, click here.
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Photo courtesy The Growler, by Jaime Schumacher
Chef Stephanie Kochlin

Stephanie Kochlin
Head Chef

After training at Le Cordon Bleu Minneapolis-St. Paul, chef Stephanie Kochlin turned her post-grad internship under Roy Yamaguchi into a long-term stay in Hawaii. She returned to Minnesota and accepted a position working alongside Lenny Russo at Heartland before becoming head chef at Pig & Fiddle, Edina's favorite gastropub. These days she's interested in keeping things local, especially when she gets a moment away from her own restaurant kitchen.

"I live in downtown St. Paul with my boyfriend, Andy, who's also a chef, so our time off together, especially at night, is limited," says Kochlin. "But when we can go out, we like to stay close to home. We'll go see J.D. Fratzke and his staff at the Strip Club. We always have a great time there. Or we also love to walk to Meritage. Russell Klein has assembled a great team there and the food is always amazing."

Kochlin's moules frites steamed in Belgian beer are divinity defined, her dumplings and pasta never overworked; she knows how to treat a rabbit, and she can pull off a seriously gorgeous dessert -- the downfall of many a chef. But her edge in Iron Fork is an intimate knowledge of her competitors. 

"I worked with Danny del Prado at Bar La Grassa, and I always thought that his food was very bright and exciting," says Kochlin. "He's quick and thinks well on his feet. If the mystery ingredient involves citrus or chiles, I'm in trouble."

Sometimes modesty is the sneakiest strategy of all. 

See Also:

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The Hot Dish: Who do you consider to be some of the best/most exciting/most innovative chefs in Minnesota?
Stephanie Kochlin: I think Doug Flicker is a great chef with an innovative approach to cooking, and I consider Isaac Becker to be an incredibly impressive chef and restaurateur. I admire Lenny Russo for his dedication to his beliefs and standard of quality when it comes to the origin of food.

Who would you say was the most influential person in terms of you developing your cooking style?
I worked for Lenny Russo for over seven years at Heartland. During that time I was expected to create a daily changing menu using all these amazing local ingredients. I worked under Lenny and within his concept, yes, but I was given a tremendously generous amount of creative freedom. I think Lenny really gave me the opportunity to develop my own cooking style.

What was your first food job?
Well, my first job was working for my family's business. It isn't in the food industry, but I learned the value of hard work and determination from my parents. When I was 15, I started working at the Kowalski's espresso bar in White Bear Lake. I enjoyed the physical nature of the job and I liked to make customers happy.

What items are always in your personal fridge or pantry?
We always have pickles, hot sauce, limes, and soda water.

What are your least favorite ingredients?
I can't think of an ingredient that I hate. I am bummed out when I use avocados because I like them, and I understand their value, but I can't eat them. 

What food trends do you wish would die?
Foams. Is that still a trend? If it is, I think it should die.

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