The menu at the iconic French brasserie and oyster bar, Meritage (a union of merit and heritage) is crafted by Chef Russell Klein. The space captures the essence of a Paris street café, and the staff, thanks to Desta Klein, has that level of service expected at a crown jewel.
Luke Shimp kindRED Hospitality
Luke Shimp and wife Tracy Bachul created this "modern tavern" concept, with exceptional burgers. Red Cow has grown to four locations, joined by a new sister restaurant serving elevated Italian dishes, Red Rabbit. A percentage of sales is dedicated to supporting nonprofits in the community.
Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem’s Hai Hai focuses on Southeast Asian street food and cocktails. Hai Hai has received recognition from national press including Eater’s 18 Best New Restaurants in America, Thrillist’s 13 Best New Restaurants in America, and Esquire Magazine’s 20 Best New Restaurants. Christina was also named Esquire’s Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2018.
Outstanding Baker/Pastry Chef
Christina has worked as executive pastry chef at New York’s famed Rainbow Room and competed on "Iron Chef America." Patrons at Edwards Dessert Kitchen are privy to Christina’s modern twists on classic desserts, such as Curried Scotcheroos, Miso Caramel Pudding and Mango Coconut Crème Pie Puffs.
A graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, Justin is currently managing partner of Madison Restaurant Group’s eight restaurants in St. Paul and co-owner and executive chef of Pearl and the Thief. He recently won "Iron Chef America," and is competing on "Top Chef."
Marco is a nefarious drink slinger. After stint at Stanford in the west and Bard in the east he returned to Minneapolis to become a dishwasher and fell in love with the restaurant industry. He’s trained hundreds of bartenders, and designed award-winning programs. He runs Martina and Colita’s drink program in Minneapolis. Recent public lauding include Forbes 30 under 30, Eater Young Gun Semi-Finalist, the cover of MSP magazine and Esquire’s MPLS Preview.
Sean currently runs the beverage program at Fhima’s MPLS as well as operating Drop & Dram, a beverage-consulting firm based in the Twin Cities. He moved to Minneapolis in 2001, where he’s been mentored by the likes of Jesse Held (Parlour) and Toby Maloney (Bradstreet Craftshouse), and worked as part of the incredible hive mind that is Bittercube.
Lift Bridge Brewing Co.
Lift Bridge, located in Stillwater, is Minnesota’s seventh largest craft brewery, known for its flagship beers Farm Girl Saison and Hop Dish IPA. It was founded in 2008 by homebrewers: Brad Glynn (now COO), Dan Schwarz (CEO), Trevor Cronk (VP) and Jim Pierson (CFO). In 2010 they moved into their current brewery space, eventually opening a taproom in 2011, the oldest operating taproom in Minnesota.
Outstanding Entertainment Restaurant
Can Can Wonderland
The four owners, Christi Atkinson, Rob Clapp, Chris Pennington and Jennifer Pennington, formed Can Can Wonderland as the first arts-based public benefit corporation in Minnesota. That means with every boozy milkshake, ping pong battle and mini donut devoured, Can Can Wonderland helps support the Minneapolis-St. Paul artist community. Their building in St. Paul was once home to the American Can Company, thus the name.
Chowgirls Killer Catering
Heidi Andermack and Amy Lynn Brown founded Chowgirls Killer Catering nearly 15 years ago as the gold standard for organic, sustainable fare and top-shelf events. In 2014, the year of Chowgirls’ 10-year anniversary, they were named two of MSP Business Journal’s Top 50 Women in Business and in 2016 published a cookbook, "Chowgirls Killer Party Food."
Birch’s on the Lake
Birches on the Lake, owned by Burton Joseph, has the ambiance of a Wisconsin-style supper club meets an experimental American brewery. Part of its popularity comes from the fact that it’s both an adult hangout and kid friendly.
Nathan has been faculty and program director of culinary arts at Saint Paul College since 2005, one of the last culinary training programs in the Twin Cities. He believes chefs have the ability to affect change in the conventional food system by being a conscious consumer. He has worked with food-specific community-based organizations such as Appetite for Change, Youth Farm, Urban Roots, Frogtown Farm, Community Homestead, Cookie Cart and Roots for the Home Team.
While still in high school, Joshua became a two-time state champion in the ProStart culinary competitions. He was named Top Chef at Walt Disney World’s flagship restaurant, California Grill, in a series of mystery basket challenges in 2015, and has worked in New York City for Iron Chef Morimoto where he trained in the art of sushi and opened Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs. In 2016, Joshua was chosen as Top 10 Young Chefs in the U.S. by San Pellegrino to compete in its global talent search.