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Culinary Q&A: Scott Mayer Talks Charlie Awards and Donuts

The founder and principal of sponsorship-marketing agency Mayer, Scott Mayer grew up in rural South Dakota and later came to Minneapolis where he fell in love with theater. He helped create the Ivey Awards, which since 2004 have been honoring local theatrical achievement, and he’s been a driving force behind the Charlie Awards, an Academy Awards-style ceremony celebrating the local Twin Cities food and beverage scene. Now in its sixth year, the Charlies return to the Pantages Theater in Minneapolis on Sunday, November 13. (Get your tickets HERE.)


How and why did the Charlie Awards get started?  

Then Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Sue Zelickson were at the Ivey Awards (the annual event celebrating the Twin Cities professional theater community) and when walking out said, “We need to do something like this for the food community!” The rest is history.  


Why do you think it’s important to spotlight the local food and beverage industry?

The Twin Cities is a unique food and beverage community. We not only have terrific restaurants but have a great food truck scene, a burgeoning distillery and brewery industry, farms close by, and the large and small food companies that in some instances go all the way back to when Minneapolis and St. Paul were founded. Not many metro areas can claim integration of all these sectors, and we need to celebrate that.


You also created the Ivey Awards to recognize the Twin Cities theater community—do you see any similarities between theater and the restaurant industry?

There are lots of similarities and differences. Chefs are very much like theater’s artistic directors: brilliantly creative and (mostly) disorganized. Ha! Both industries require a big supporting team and have a huge fan base of theater-goers and diners—deservedly so.  However, because restaurants are for-profit and most theaters are non-profit, there is a level of competitiveness in the restaurant industry that doesn’t exist among theaters.


Where is your favorite spot to dine in the Twin Cities and what makes it so special?

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres because it combines my two favorite past-times: food and theater.


In your opinion, what can or should restaurants do to stand out?

I do believe that giving back to the community ultimately rewards the restaurateur and is a great differentiator. A million years ago I initiated a fundraiser for AIDS organizations via an Academy Awards party that ultimately was attended by 4,000 people. Brenda Langton and Lenny Russo were the first restaurateurs who contributed desserts and I have not forgotten their generosity.  


What’s your go-to guilty pleasure food?

I’ve never walked by a donut case without reaching in.


What type of food does Minnesota do best?

Hot dish.


What type or style of food do you wish we had more of in Minnesota?

Chinese. We just had a great dinner at Tammy Wong’s Rainbow Chinese restaurant, but we get to Las Vegas a lot, and it has a HUGE community of Chinese that doesn’t exist here. 


What’s one culinary trend you wish would disappear?

Not accepting reservations.  

What’s your favorite food memory? 

I grew up in the tiny South Dakota town of Roscoe, population 300. I remember having dinner with my parents in the local tavern, and my dad left a tip. As we were leaving, the owner ran out after us thinking we had accidentally left our money behind. 

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