Chefs reflect on Twin Cities food scene as James Beard Award finalists announced

The Lexington in St. Paul just re-opened about a month ago, and it’s one more restaurant setting the table for a vibrant food scene in the Twin Cities.

Here, Chef Jack Riebel serves up updated twists on classic dishes. But, the Lex – as it’s called – is also part of a new wave of restaurants feeding the Twin Cities’ seemingly insatiable appetite for creative food.

“I am doing what I would call contemporary supper club food,” he said. “It’s been fantastic, and I think it’s been well-received for me… it’s exciting for me to think, ‘your vision, your idea, all these things you've worked so hard on have come to fruition.’"

Riebel said that over the last few years, the Twin Cities area has gained a national reputation as a destination for food.

He said having so many former James Beard Award winners like Isaac Becker at Bar La Grassa and Alex Roberts at Restaurant Alma living and working here is shining a spotlight on the entire area.

“There’s been this great scene brewing for a long time, and you have these great chefs who have now mentored the next generation of cooks coming in,” he said. “Those cooks are now coming through the ranks and doing really cool stuff.”

Food and Wine writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl said that with big companies like General Mills, Land O’Lakes and SuperValu based here, the Twin Cities have always had a steady supply of employees who are interested in food as well.

Plus, she says, eating out is the new sport for many diners, especially millennials.

“50 percent of the money people spend on food is spent at restaurants, so I don't see this going anywhere. It’s a lot cheaper to go to dinner than it is to get on a plane to Paris,” she said.

Riebel hopes making a melting pot from Minnesota's diverse cultures will continue to hit the spot.

“For a lot of these chefs, we are trying to find our voice in this vast culinary landscape and define who we are in the north. And I think it’s happening…I think you are beginning to see it,” he said.

Moscowitz Grumdahl said the local food scene is also benefiting from chefs moving here from the coasts.

She also said there was a time when she had to search for new restaurants to review every month. Now, they are everywhere.