Chef Todd MacDonald Was Eating Oysters and Drinking Wine By Age Eight

Categories: Interview

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Photo courtesy of Todd MacDonald
The happy couple in their happy place: The Piedmontese region of Italy

Never mind that chef Todd MacDonald of the soon-to-open Parella has been cutting, then honing, then sharpening his culinary chops in some of New York's finest restaurants for the past 11 years. His parents, Bob and Sue, are local patrons of the culinary arts and his dad is some kind of mogul who writes books about traveling to the world's finest restaurants. He may actually have been to more three-star restaurants more often than anyone. The couple has also done much in support of local culinarians.

Will MacDonald the younger have to live in this shadow forever?

Only time will tell, but before you get all huffy about daddy's money, know that the chef came by this business like anyone else -- working at the local Ciatti's in high school, for pocket money.

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First Annual Minnesota Morel Fest Will Crop Up Next Month


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Pam Grier Talks Dining Out for Life, Red Velvet Pancakes, and Empathy

Categories: Interview

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Phot courtesy of Dining Out for Life
Pam Grier poses with Elise Wiggins, executive chef of Dining Out for Life, and Abana Jacobs, Subaru National Sponsorship & Promotions specialist

Celebrities might feel naturally compelled to throw themselves behind a cause: The universe has been good to them, so it eventually becomes time to pay it forward. But when I chat with Pam Grier, best known for her smokin' hot bod and badassery in vintage blacksploitation films, her impassioned empathy for those who might be suffering is palpable. "You don't want to be alone when you're ill. And family can't always be there."

She said she simply doesn't understand people, especially those with means, who don't help out others in need. So she's taking it upon herself to edge us all out of our comfort zones.

See also:
Dining Out for Life Returns to Minneapolis in April


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Is Chocolat Celeste the Best in the Twin Cities? A Chat With Mary Leonard

Categories: Interview

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Mecca Bos
Mary Leonard explains the process that goes into her exquisite truffles. This is a chocolate enrober.

Like cheese, wine, and coffee, chocolate can be esoteric. There are plantations to consider and cocoa percentages and butterfat and additives and fillings and flavorings both artificial and natural. And alkaloids. And etymology, history, processing, tempering, and health effects. And in part due to this esoterica, just like cheese, wine and coffee, chocolate can be subject to sleights of hand via clever marketing.

And all the layperson knows is that he wants it, and he wants it bad. Fat, sugar, cocoa? More, please. But Mary Leonard isn't having any of it. Don't let all the hot pink fool you. She's got a background in food science, business, and IT. Chocolate is her second act, and she's very serious about it.

See also:
Chocolat Celeste: The Tour


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MN Beer Activists: Sunday Sales Fight Is Like David vs. Goliath

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Photo courtesy of Minnesota Beer Activists
Andrew Schmitt and his son at the March 15 Capitol event

Our alcohol laws are outdated, and a 2013 poll shows Minnesotans agree: It's embarrassing when we have to tell Wisconsin visitors that we'll need to stockpile beer on Saturday night.

Local consumer advocacy group MN Beer Activists has been working tirelessly to change that. After a recent Capitol rally cry, we caught up with founder Andrew Schmitt to talk about his inspiration, his motivation, and why he keeps fighting for progressive alcohol laws year after year.

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Minnesota Beer Activists fight for your drinking rights


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Tinto Cocina y Cantina Chef Carlos Garza Wants to Be a Culinary Champion

Categories: Interview

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Mecca Bos
Chef Carlos Garza says he's deeply in love with cooking

Every chef needs to have a one-track mind. There simply are not enough hours in the day for people who work seriously in the culinary industry to split their attentions much. A macrame champ you are not going to become in your spare time, nor an award-winning bike racer nor the very best at bungee jumping. You can't -- there isn't enough time if you want to be really good at the bread and butter.

And for this to work out nicely, you gotta love it. We have spoken to very few (maybe even zero) chefs who use the word "love" lightly when they talk of cooking. So it takes a lot of love to make this calculation: Chef Carlos Garza might love it the most.

See also:
Tinto Cocina + Cantina Is Now Open and Serving Made-to-Order Tortillas


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A Cider Boom Is Coming, with Dan Kelly's and Republic Igniting the Fuse

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Photo courtesy of Dan Kelly's Pub

With the opening of Dan Kelly's Pub, the Twin Cities is getting an infusion of cider options. Owner Matty O'Reilly, who also owns Republic 7 Corners, has a longstanding interest in the apple-derived brew, which he sees following a similar trajectory to craft beer: Once consumers learn there are better, less gimmicky options available, cider will have its day in the sun.


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Dan Kelly's Bar Grows Up into a Pub Paragon

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Vegan Drag Queen Mistress Ginger: "All My Many Lovers Have Been My Taste Testers"

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Mistress Ginger

All of us, every one, would be wise to glean a little bit of the self-confidence the average drag queen has in her flamingo-painted fingernail. Why did Mistress Ginger, a.k.a. Justin Leaf, write a cookbook?

"To share with the world all the wonderful recipes that have made me the gorgeous showgirl that I am!"

But of course.

See also:
10 Best Local Cookbooks and Food Guides

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John Kraus of Patisserie 46 on Coupe du Monde: "I've Never Been So Nervous In My Life"

Categories: Interview

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Photo courtesy of Paul Strabbing

"Maybe if I was a Swiss watch maker people would understand it better."

Master pastry chef John Kraus, owner of Patisserie 46, is referring to the processes that go into making his pastries, each one a couple days' worth of labor. By way of illustration he holds up his hands. They're a worker's hands -- big and rough and strengthened by endless hours at the task.

Maybe you've stood at the cases at Patisserie 46 and thought about it: they're nothing more than sugar and butter and flour but under the hand of Kraus and his crew, they become little lemon yellow easter hats with a jaunty mad hatter's chocolate tag tucked in the side; a dome of electric lime; a shiny, lipstick red velveteen finger sandwich.

Anyway, you can't eat Swiss watches. Unless Kraus gets a crack at them. Maybe then.

See also:

Best French Restaurant Minneapolis 2014 - Patisserie 46

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Chef Shack in Seward Is Like Home, But With Fresh Donuts and Sangria

Categories: Interview

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Mecca Bos
The women of Chef Shack empire: Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer

I've never been to the downtown Minneapolis home of Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer, but they tell me it's bright, with big windows, a tiny kitchen, and lots of cool stuff, because Summer is an avid collector but Carlson is a minimalist.

So I'll bet that means there's lots of interesting things to look at but it's nice and neat and never cluttered; there's probably great music going at all times and something good to drink and good smells wafting all around...

Wait. I have been to the home of Summer and Carlson, because I've been to both of their restaurants, the one in Seward but also the one in Bay City, Wisconsin and I'll be damned if I've ever felt more at home in any restaurant, ever, in my life.

Gracious doesn't begin to describe the experience of drinking and dining with them. Had a little too much to drink? They'll offer to call you an Uber. And then, pour you another glass of a luscious winter Sangria.

Their success lies very much in this hospitality ethic: "I don't want to sit at home tonight," says Carlson as she hands me that glass. "I want to make people happy with food. It's what I love to do."

See also:
Best Restaurant in Seward Minneapolis 2014 - Chef Shack Ranch


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Emily Torgrimson Throws Giant Dinner Parties for Charity

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E. Katie Holm
Emily Torgrimson brings joy through Eat for Equity

One of the fascinating Twin Cities community members featured in City Pages' People 2015 issue. Check out our entire People 2015 issue.

The notion came to her in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Emily Torgrimson was attending Boston University, living in communal housing with 24 other people.

They each took turns cooking. When Torgrimson's time arrived, she chose to cook New Orleans-style fare, asking people to kick in "a buck or two" for storm victims. So began Eat for Equity.

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