ALEXANDRIA, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s hard to find Chef Matthew Jensen in the kitchen without a smile on his face. He’s the chef and owner of his Alexandria restaurant: LA FERME. Born here, he remembers being an artistic child.

“I can remember when I was 8 years old my mom told me while I was cooking with her in the kitchen, you should consider doing this for a profession as your job when you grow up. I said no, I never want to do that. I didn’t think it was my thing,” Chef Jensen said.

Turns out it was. His talent for cooking blossomed until finally his path was undeniable. He moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in culinary school.

“From day one it was like the passion bug bit me and I could not stop thinking about food. I wanted to be in the kitchen all the time and just explore. It was a whole new world to me,” Chef Jensen said.

Chef Jensen moved back to Minnesota, worked under French Chef Vincent at Vincent Restaurant and Chef Jim Kyndberg at Bayport Cookery. It was there he really started thinking outside of the box with his dishes.

“For me, my taste buds are my gateway. I can’t afford to go to all the places I want to go, so food is a great way to learn about a culture,” Chef Jensen said. “How often do I think about food? When I’m awake. And even when I sleep. My wife tells me that sometimes I’m smacking in my sleep!”

That food obsession finally pushed Matthew to make his own creation. And he felt the tug of home.

“It’s where a piece of me had always stayed and telling me I had to be here,” Chef Jensen said.

LA FERME opened four years ago. It means “the farmhouse” in French and is the perfect coming together of the things Chef Matthew loves most in food: farm to fork and French cuisine. From lunch to a five course dinner paired with wines LA FERME is a cozy space that serves food you can feel good about eating.

“What we do here is outside of the box thinking. It’s making an event of the meal,” Chef Jensen said.

And the town of Alexandria is eating it up.

“They are loving the food. It’s fun because it’s a small town. Alec is growing, but it’s small enough. We put a lot of the farmers’ names on the menu so people come in and say, I know these guys! These are my neighbors,” Chef Jensen said.

Just like in childhood, Chef Jensen is still creating his art, and it’s framed on a plate.

“It’s artistic release. Everything that I put on a plate I think, you eat with your eyes. I want it to look gorgeous, picture worthy, and I want it to make you feel good when you eat it,” Chef Jensen said.

Your other favorite spots for a romantic dinner are Cafe Lurcat in Minneapolis and WA Frost in St. Paul.