5 1/2 Questions and Football Follow-up
If there’s a kid or adult graduating from culinary school in the Twin Cities today, most likely he’s been part of Chef Nathan Sartain’s program at St. Paul College. With fewer options for students these days, St Paul's culinary arts program is pretty close to the only game in town. In addition to teaching, Sartain, armed with his top culinary students, also helps out on various food-related events like the Charlies and chef competitions. To be respectful of his time, we kept our curiosity to just five short questions.
1. What’s one thing you don’t teach star-struck first-year students with career expectations to be the next celebrity chef?
“How to sign autographs.”
2. What’s the most unusual food a student has shared from their culture?
We had Filipino students who brought in balot, which is a duck egg that’s been fertilized (a developing embryo that’s boiled and eaten from the shell). You sip the fluid out and spoon out the solids (fetus). We are always respectful of our students' culture, so I did it with a straight face so I didn’t sacrifice any credibility (as a food professional).
3. Where’s your favorite place to eat in the Twin Cities?
I only get one?
3b. OK, you can have five.
Well, now that I’ve talked my wife out of being a vegan, my five consequential restaurants are: Octo Fishbar; Saint Dinette; anything by Thomas Boemer (Corner Table, Revival); Young Joni; and Zen Box. Also Chef Shack Ranch, it has the best brunch in the Twin Cities and it isn’t even in the Twin Cities, it’s in Bayport. The food has so much heart.
4. Do you think there’s a shortage of help in the Twin Cities?
I get 15 to 20 requests for workers a day. We have so much talent in this town and therefore chefs opening restaurants ask to come in to recruit.
5. If you weren’t a culinary teacher, what would you do?
Food is so galvanizing; people don’t eat just because they’re hungry. I’d do something along the lines of a food anthropologist.
Were you ready for some football income?
Football’s Super Bowl would have been even more super if the Vikings had been playing and more diners had visited the skyways and restaurants off the beaten path. And, if it hadn't been so darn cold. Anticipating the number of people a big event like a Super Bowl will attract is no easy feat, but it’s safe to say that the restaurateurs in the majority of the Twin Cities restaurants weren’t seeing the big dollar gains that had been forecasted. Unless you were Manny's, of course, which cleverly kept the regular menu prices, but added a page of higher priced items, such as foie gras and even larger-than-normal cuts of meat and expensive bottles of wine.
Hotels, on the other hand, did do a dance in the end zone. According to Finance & Commerce, hotels earned three-times more money the week before the Super Bowl than during the same time period the year before—and recorded the second highest hotel revenue boosts to a host city since 2011. Maybe the reason those numbers look so good is that in Minneapolis, opposed to the other host cities such as Miami, there’s no way a fan could forgo a room when the weather was the coldest Super Bowl on record.
We did our Server Speak column a couple of months ahead of the Super Bowl, which is why our version of celebrity sightings doesn't match the ones being reported in the mainstream press. Out of respect for the celebrities, restaurant owners never serve and tell, but we did hear that some famous guests crossed the river to go to Meritage in St. Paul. Owner Russell Klein wouldn’t confirm or deny other news outlets' sightings of Halftime performer Justin Timberlake or Pharrell Williams, a singer known for his Arby’s-style hat (yes, but did you know he has a line of athletic shoes?), however, Klein did comment that when there’s a celebrity in the house, other guests feel the need to get up and walk to the restroom more often than when there are no celebrities in the house.
The NFL rented out Seven Steakhouse Sushi & Rooftop. Due to the high number of celebrities and gridiron stars, servers were required to surrender their cell phones during their shifts. Not a bad idea for any shift.