Reporting Sara Pelissero
The Twin Cities are blessed when it comes to talent in the kitchen. The culinary minds at the helm of our favorite restaurants receive critical acclaim and top honors from food enthusiasts and reviewers, alike. But who are the people behind the chef’s coat? Our Chef’s Profile aims to find out.
For a woman who cooks a lot of delicate, perfectly prepared fish with elegant details, she sure loves her greasy cheeseburgers.
Chef de Cuisine Jamie Malone opened up about her late-night cravings (and also last meal desires) in the second portion of our two-part interview. Last week, we learned how it all began for the St. Paul native — and where she draws her inspirations from.
But this week, we wanted to know more about the chef’s preferences — ingredients she likes, what her typical day is like and what she does in the little spare time that she has.
When you’re at home, what do you like to cook for yourself or for friends and family?
Nothing. (Laughs) In the past two years, I’ve probably cooked at home like twice. I’m so busy. But before I had this job and actually had time – pasta. Making pasta is like the best thing in the world. Or baking bread. Stuff you just use your hands and you don’t think about it.
What’s a typical day for you?
Usually I come in around 10 a.m. and check in with the lunch cooks. We have a clipboard that the closing chef or sous chef will fill out for the opener, so I’ll go through that and see what kind of notes they leave me, respond to those. And then just do a walk around the restaurant, see what needs taking care of in the cooler or whatever. Little things like that. Then I check reservations for birthdays, anniversaries, or anything special, if people leave little notes we try to do something for them. And then emails, and then I cook lunch. Then fish comes in and I butcher fish for a couple hours, we have a meeting at 2:30 p.m., then all the night time cooks start coming in, so I just check in with them, make sure they’re supported and have everything they need for good service. Maybe more fish butchering and then around 4 p.m. we roll pasta. Me and the sous chefs do all the pasta because I’m kind of anal about it. Then at 5 p.m., everyone changes into their new apron and we just wait for service. From like 5:15 p.m. to 7 p.m., it’s crazy – super busy with pre-show. At a normal restaurant, it sort of trickles in and that’s sort of your easy time so we’re ready at 5 p.m. And then at 7 p.m., the whole dining room empties and we have this nice, easy break so everyone regroups and then we do the second turn – the real restaurant turn, as they call it. But yeah, then I do orders, call in orders, and then get ready, set up for the next day.
What’s it like being a restaurant inside a theater?
It’s super challenging. But I appreciate it. I think the further you push yourself, the better you’re going to be. We don’t let it be something we compromise for – we don’t try to make easier food because of it or par-cook anything or take those short cuts. We just think, what can we do to accomplish the same thing we would if we didn’t have to do this, and make it happen. And we do – I think we do, at least, pretty well. It feels good to be able to do that. If I ever do move on, it’ll probably be easier having that under my belt.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure food?
Cheeseburgers. No doubt, cheeseburgers.
Any in particular?
I think Eli’s makes a really good burger. 112 Eatery makes a pretty good burger. And the greasiest, like Flameburger Cheeseburger, at 3 in the morning. That’s my true guilty pleasure.
Is there an ingredient that you would prefer never to work with?
I don’t like swordfish. I hate swordfish. I’m not a fan. I just think it’s so boring. It’s a boring fish. Everyone in the kitchen knows I hate swordfish.
On the flip side, is there an ingredient you find yourself constantly drawn to?
Yeah, uni, the sea urchin that we have on (the menu) right now, I’m just blown away by it. I think it’s awesome. Oysters, I think are the most perfect thing in the whole world. If I could only eat one thing forever, it’d be oysters. I really like abalone, too. I’m really into abalone.
When you’re out of the kitchen, what’s your favorite pastime?
Going out to eat. That’s kind of it. Eating, reading, it’s pretty simple.
If you had to choose a “Last Meal,” what would it be?
Cheeseburger. No doubt. It’d have to be a cheeseburger, fries, tons of ketchup and red wine.
Where are some of your favorite places to dine?
In town, I really like Tilia. I mean, a lot of it is places that I can go late night. So Tilia, 112. I had an awesome meal at Meritage a couple months ago, like super awesome. I love La Belle Vie, of course. Peninsula, the Malaysian place is super good. Pizzeria Lola is awesome, just firing on all cylinders.
What are your thoughts on the Twin Cities restaurant scene?
We’re doing a really good job. Seriously. We have a lot of people in town that are just doing some really cool stuff and I’m excited to see where it goes. I think our community is supporting us so we’ll continue to grow. I was just in New York for a week earlier in the month, and everything I ate, I ate all these perfect meals but there’s nothing that people are doing in New York that’s less exciting or inspired than what we’re doing in Minneapolis. We’re just doing it on a smaller scale and we don’t have those cool little microcosms of ethnic restaurants like they do, but as far as fine dining goes and as far as people are opening up their own independent restaurants, I think we’re good.
When you look back on your career, what do you hope to be known for, in the culinary world?
I guess I don’t think about that. I don’t know. I don’t hope to be known, but just to have a good team around me, be able to enjoy what I do all the time.