What is the inspiration behind your upcoming Super Bowl menu? How are you going to elevate standard game day foods to cater to an esteemed audience?
I’ve lived in Minnesota for 26 years, so the inspiration is having this amazing opportunity to bring the world to a place I call home. We have a proud food legacy here beginning with our first peoples’ love of wild rice, local game and berries. I’m going to highlight everything that makes our food world tick -- from hearty stews like Booyah to whole-roasted Minnesota goat, hog and lamb, to chef-driven dishes featuring local items such as our superb smoked fish. At the end of the day, it’s a super-sized tailgate party, so everyone’s go-to game day foods will be featured, but Paul Bunyan style.
Wow! It’s definitely well-beyond your average wings platter, but we’d expect nothing less from the host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods. What would you say is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten recently?
I just got back from Mexico City, where I got to visit the sacred Aztec town of Tepoztlán. The whole town had incredible energy. The wild honey, jumiles (stink bugs) and chapulines -- which are dried crickets seasoned with lime and chiles -- are a must. There’s also a chile salsa made with toasted ants and crickets on a wild boar roasted in local fruits that may have been the game changer for me on the trip.
You are fearless. That being said, do you ever get nervous cooking for crowds or around A-listers like Kelly Clarkson?
Nope, never. Cooking is what I love to do and I just look forward to get the chance to do it every day.
Do you happen to have any pre-cooking rituals with your team in the kitchen?
When I was cooking daily in restaurants, I always ate with people I worked with. I used the opportunity to spend quality time with them to share or eat something new and interesting. I needed people in the building to know what’s going on for every service and be on the same page about it before serving our guests. A meal once or twice a day helps build bridges.
For those who have never been to Minneapolis and are hoping to do some sightseeing, can you recommend some hot spots in the area?
Some of the best restaurants in town are Spoon & Stable, Bellecour, Grand Café, Heyday, Octo Fishbar, Young Joni, and Hai Hai.