Corner Table chef Thomas Boemer talks fried chicken, Alain Ducasse, and Revival

Categories: Interview
Grant Tillery
Boemer prepping for a Thursday dinner rush at Corner Table.
When Chef Thomas Boemer assumed the helm at Corner Table in south Minneapolis, he transformed this neighborhood eatery to a destination restaurant. Three years later, the chef with a pedigree that includes a stint at Alain Ducasse's Mix in Las Vegas, has shepherded the restaurant to its new location further down Nicollet Avenue. Now, just one month into the new Corner Table 3.0 location, Boemer and crew are busier still -- putting the finishing touches on Revival, his new Southern joint due late this summer in the original Corner Table spot.  

See also:
First Look: Brunch at the new Corner Table

Hot Dish: What was the inspiration for the new decor in Corner Table 3.0?

Thomas Boemer: One of our good friends said they love going to our restaurant because it's like being at a dinner party. This [space] has that same feel of comfort, but it still has refinement. I was lucky enough to help and work with some of my former employers on the woodwork as well.  

Have you done woodworking before?

I was a cabinetmaker for a couple of years, right down the street. I decided to come back into the [restaurant] industry when I was having my son.

How long were you doing woodwork?  Why the career change?

About five years. I had been in the food industry since I was old enough to work. After Vegas, we came back here and opened a restaurant with other individuals, and it didn't work out. It seemed like a good time to take a break from the industry. You don't realize until you get out of it that it becomes a part of you.

What led you to Vegas in the first place?

Back when I was in culinary school, I opened up a book of many chefs and their food. There was a page I came to -- Chef Ducasse; it showed his food and philosophies. In that instant, I ended up connecting with it, and I ended up working for a French hotel with a few people who had worked with him. One of my chefs said he was opening a place and he would give me an interview; it was a done deal.  

So you had experience cooking in the French style?

French food is like American food: What does it really mean? There are a multitude of interpretations from classic French to Parisian to all the various iterations of modernist French cuisine. When you go and work for Ducasse, you learn Ducasse's cuisine, not French cuisine. 

But French cuisine always seems to be heralded as the gold standard of food.  Why is that?

Twenty years ago, you would say "absolutely." Ten years ago, [that] would probably still be true. Now you can find people taking any cuisine to an extremely high level. You're also coming from a culture that is different. In the United States, until recently, if you're cooking, you're seen as a low-level trade, whereas in Europe you'd be well respected. Now you have the celebrity chef angle that's changed people's viewpoints a little bit.

When you talk about cooking as a trade, it sparks the debate of cooking as an art versus cooking as a craft.

There was a recent interview with Ducasse where he said, "No genius ever came out of the kitchen." We are a bridge between our purveyors and our clients, from our farmers to the person that sits here. Is every chef an artist? No. Is every chef a craftsman? No. Some are true craftsmen and some may provoke an artistic response.  

Which would you consider yourself?

We're definitely craftsmen here. The restaurant is part of the community -- we're part of the food community, the Kingfield neighborhood, people's lives, and how they celebrate and enjoy food. To be a steward of that is important.  

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