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Lenny Russo :: Best Chef Midwest Finalist, 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards

March 22, 2010

Meet Lenny Russo, James Beard Foundation Finalist for 2010 and Executive Chef of Heartland Restaurant. I’m proud as hell to work for Chef Russo, who took me under his wing as an apprentice last year after I’d done some photo work for him. Since the architecture market was the first to fall without an end in sight in this economic downturn, I sought Lenny’s advice as to whether or not I should go to culinary school. He was kind enough to let me into his kitchen and teach me to cook on a professional level, and somehow I haven’t yet fucked up enough to get thrown out.

This is an exciting time in food. The market is slowly but surely making a turn toward locally sourced ingredients, sustainable agriculture, and fair trade. The term Organic is no longer just for sensitive men with ponytails. We’re paying more attention to what’s in our food and where it comes from. We’re learning that Organic isn’t enough – our means of obtaining good food have to be sustainable as well. Lenny’s has been a key player in this movement from the start, with a business model that supports local farmers and fair trade with his distributors and employees. And, his food’s fantastic. Most chefs couldn’t make food this good with the finest ingredients smuggled in from France.

This exciting news came this morning via the Star Tribune and Twitter, and it’s been an interesting topic of discussion during prep hours at Heartland. If you’re not familiar with the James Beard Foundation, think of it as the Academy Awards or Grammy’s of the Food World. It’s not an easy thing to do. Almost none of the slow talking gel-head hosts you watch on The Food Network have even been nominees. What’s more, it’s exciting to see a chef getting national attention who has a strong conviction that there’s more to good food than exotic ingredients and fancy presentations.

Congrats, Chef. I’m honored to be getting my ass kicked working on your line.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    March 22, 2010 7:16 pm

    You know, Shaun, I somehow didn’t really pick up on your professional culinary outlet in the course of our past food conversations. I’ve never been to Heartland, but it’s been at the top of my list for a while. I’ll have to get your advice on what to try and wrangle DC down there for a meal. Maybe you and Emily could join us? I like to hear about what Chef Russo and y’all are doing to showcase spring foods.

    • March 24, 2010 10:28 pm

      This sounds great. Em’s been wanting us to eat there again for a while now. We went alone last time, but it would be even more fun with you two. I can’t say much about what to try since the menu changes daily according to what’s available. It’s all very good. I know we recently received a heritage breed Mangelitsa pig, with which we’ve been doing all sorts of interesting things. And everything I’ve tasted so far has been great. Let’s talk soon…

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