Jason DeRusha on the highs and lows of the Twin Cities dining scene

Categories: Interview
Carly Danek
Introducing our 2013 Iron Fork celebrity judge, Jason DeRusha
Smoked butt. The term conjures images too graphic to display on this blog -- as if food photography weren't pornographic enough -- but there was a time and a place when WCCO's Jason DeRusha couldn't get enough of it.

Actually, it's a cheap, dry piece of pork shoulder that DeRusha's well-meaning mother used to make in the slow cooker. Let's just say his taste buds have matured. He swears he'll never feed it to his family.

"That's my gift to my children," DeRusha says. "Unless they want to. I don't judge. It's a free country. Are we still talking about cuts of meat? I don't know. This maybe took a turn."

See also:
DeRusha celebrates his day

DeRusha will judge the 2013 City Pages Iron Fork competition on November 7, when six culinary masterminds from the Twin Cities will go head to head to create the best dish using a secret ingredient.

DeRusha files a weekly food report for WCCO and just began writing for Mpls/St. Paul Magazine. This week, we caught up with him to talk about his favorite local spots, Andrew Zimmern, and how his palate has changed since the smoked butt days of his youth.

CP: So, finally, this is the take down piece on you --

Jason DeRusha: This is it.'What makes you qualified to judge food?'

That is literally my first question. What are your qualifications as a food critic?

I eat a lot! What are the qualifications of anybody? I'm a journalist and I eat a lot. So I ask a lot of questions. Isn't that enough?

I do think it's interesting that there's an expectation as a food writer that you're some sort of home cook or you must've worked in a restaurant. No one expects a Vikings beat writer to have been a former NFL football player.

Do you cook at home?

Yes, I do cook at home. I made meatloaf last night. This weekend, I made pan-roasted chicken breasts. That was quite successful. One of my first jobs was managing a swimming pool concession stand, so I know a lot about serving Vienna Beef hot dogs and preparing nacho cheese for nacho dip. So I feel like I really bring a lot culinarily to the table.

Any chefs around town you admire?

There are a lot of chefs I admire. I really admire J.D. Fratzke at the Strip Club. His passion, his pursuit of excellence, and he's just a humble guy who grew up in Winona and a very talented chef.

I like Alex Roberts a lot. He is the chef at Restaurant Alma, and he opened Brasa because he wanted a place where the kids could go. Alma is fine dining. Brasa is not. What I dig about Alex is he's so talented but he doesn't seek any publicity at all. I've met him once. I barely know him. But I just admire the people that've gone through his kitchen and just the kind of person he is.

What is the Twin Cities dining scene lacking?

The biggest thing we're lacking is quality service. Service isn't treated as a profession here -- working in a restaurant is seen as a job on your way to something else. Diners haven't been trained to expect service. It's kind of this loop. What's the problem? Do diners not demand good service or restaurants don't provide it? I'm not sure who's to blame.

Let's do a couple rapid fire rounds. Your favorite spot for pizza?

Tie between Black Sheep and Pizza Nea.


Little Szechuan.




Masu. My eight-year-old son's favorite is that all-you-can-eat-sushi place, Kyoto, in Maple Grove. He eats three times as much sushi as I do. It's unbelievable. And then the six-year-old takes the Sashimi right off the rice. So he'll eat the fish but he really doesn't like the rice. It's like, you kids are weirdos.

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