Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Coffee Talk

In the news

Spyhouse Coffee Roasters has named Kevin Wencel president, leading operational strategy and business growth with a commitment to building strong producer partnerships. Wencel brings more that 20 years of experience and leadership in the food and hospitality industry, including at US Foods, Team Four Foodservice, Blue Plate Restaurant Company and Cooks of Crocus Hill. He worked his way up from sous chef at Restaurant Alma to corporate executive chef at Blue Plate. At US Foods Wencel was director of college and university for the premier program. Most recently serving as VP of sales and business development for Team Four Foodservice, Wencel solved procurement challenges with food and beverage directors, chefs and daily operations. 

The 78th consecutive Annual Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) Convention wrapped up 2019 with debate; remembrance of recently passed Membership and Outreach Director Bruce Miller; the re-election of the organization’s president and vice president; and election of 10 delegates to the next National Farmers Union Convention. The main purpose of convention is to pass the organization’s policy platform, which is developed by members at the grassroots level. Members debated issues including agricultural anti-trust, renewable energy policy, drainage policy and transportation. MFU members also re-elected farmers Gary Wertish of Renville and Bryan Klabunde of Waubun as president and vice president, respectively.

On the association’s partnership with Birchwood Café to take over Spoonriver in Minneapolis, Wertish said in a release, ”Restaurants are a good market option for many farmers. As generations get further removed from the farm, it is exciting to use this opportunity to reconnect consumers to their farmers through their food.”


OpenTable, a provider of online restaurant reservations that is part of Booking Holdings Inc and Capital One Financial Corporation, has partnered to offer Capital One cardholders access to hard-to-get reservations at prime dining times in more than 15 different U.S. cities. Select sought-after restaurants on OpenTable will allocate tables during their busiest shifts, which can be booked exclusively by Capital One credit cardholders via the OpenTable app. 

Challenging Vegas Chefs 

The winner of the Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge Champion is Chef Asher Miller of Book Club in Southwest Minneapolis. Miller’s Green Curry Rice Bowl, which competed against 17 other Twin Cities restaurants’ offerings, garnered top honors. The thought behind this friendly competition was to demonstrate the benefits and value to restaurants in offering plant-based menu items. “The Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge showed restaurant owners and the community alike that veganism is not a fleeting fad, but a new norm,” said Laura Matanah, executive director of Compassionate Action for Animals. “As more people have gone vegan, there is a need for more inclusive dining options. For restaurants, vegan offerings can be a competitive advantage. Making vegan food that is more accessible is good for everyone!” Many of the restaurants have included Twin Cities Chef Challenge items as regular menu items.

Individual winners include:

Best appetizer: Fig and Farro

Best bowl:  Brim

Best finger food:  Pub 819

Outstanding mushroom dish:  Al’s Place

Outstanding gluten-free option:  Barbette

Best use of local ingredients: Tiny Diner 

Most creative:  Red Stag

Healthy and scrumptious: Twin Cities 400

Most Decadent Dish:  Tongue in Cheek

Outstanding St. Paul Offering:  Black Dog

Best sandwich:  The Howe 

Best spicy:  Pat’s Tap

In addition to taking home the champion title, Miller was awarded a $250 cash prize. 

Twin Cities Business magazine’s December issue had a list of 100 movers and shakers in the Twin Cities’ (wait for it) business community. We’ve singled out the restaurant-related ones here:

Jeff Sommers and Lara Hammel, founders of Izzy’s Ice Cream, were singled out for their decision to take their ice cream brand nationally; John Butcher, president/CEO of Caribou Coffee, was honored for overseeing the innovation which led to “their best couple of quarters in many years;” Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, was applauded for leading his organization in a tough rain-heavy, trade dispute atmosphere; Brent Frederick, co-founder/chief manager at Jester Concepts, was lauded as an overachiever of a “dynamic multi-unit restaurant group…among the most ambitious and exacting.”  Another overachiever on the list is Justin Sutherland, chef/owner of the Madison Hospitality Group, who is opening innovative concepts at a rapid clip; Craig Kaiser, owner of Cry Baby Craig’s (who should get props for the name alone) is an overachiever with big plans for his hot sauce brand. Local TV star and chef, Andrew Zimmern, co-founder of Lucky Cricket, made the Make or Break category, due to the fact that his concept still needs to prove itself. Jared Brewington of Funky Grits was named an innovator, and Ann Kim and Conrad Leifur, co-founders of Vestalia Hospitality (owners of Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza and Young Joni), were among the Titans, for their successful restaurant chain, as well as Kim winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest.


The 11th annual Let’s Kick Hunger Radiothon takes to the airwaves  Thursday, January 16, when WCCO  radio will be broadcasting live from the Mall of America Rotunda. Over the past 10 years, the radiothon has raised more than $2 million for hunger relief in Minnesota communities. News Talk 830 WCCO, Taste of the NFL, General Mills and Compeer Financial are teaming up again for the fundraiser to benefit Second Harvest Heartland. The broadcast can be heard on the radio at 830 AM on January 16, starting at 6 a.m. 

Donations, which can also be made at the Mall of America live event or at Second Harvest’s  website, help provide meals to the 1 in 11 Minnesotans at risk of missing a meal on any given day. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags