Chef Jamie Malone has been doing big things in the Twin Cities dining scene in recent years, and the nation is taking notice in a big way. Her Grand Cafe has been racking up accolades, like Food & Wine’s Restaurants of the Year (not to mention its Dish of the Year), Esquire’s Restaurant Resurrection of the Year and semifinalist distinction in the James Beard Best New Restaurant category. Malone herself has received plenty of kudos as well, like finally being named a James Beard Best Chef: Midwest nominee after several years as a semifinalist.
In case she wasn’t busy enough cooking up delectable French fare (think sweet corn madeleines, foie gras mousse and that irresistible king crab–stuffed Jidori egg omelet) at Grand Cafe, Malone and her partner, Nikki Klocker, decided to quietly take over and remake downtown Minneapolis’s Eastside eatery late last year. Under their stewardship, the formerly Ryan Burnet–run restaurant is chic, cheeky and social, with both shareable drinks and dishes (think deviled Norwegian crab; oysters and frites; and rib-eye with lobster thermidor). It’s a great culinary complement to Grand Cafe.
We got a chance to pick the chef-cum-restaurateur’s brain about her two thriving eateries, the national attention she’s earned and what’s next for her (SPOILER: maybe a cocktail bar!).
Over the past year, you’ve received numerous national accolades. What does this recognition mean to you?
It is an incredible feeling when the barometer that you give yourself aligns with that of others. We love what we are doing at the restaurants, and we feel really proud of it. To know that others are enjoying it too is amazing, mostly because it means we get to keep doing what we do!
What draws you to the idea of reinventing restaurants, as you’ve done with both Grand Cafe and Eastside?
To me, it just makes more sense. Restaurants don’t always survive, and for many reasons. But it seems insane to me to tear them down and start over. Creativity can be at its best with confinements. It’s a unique challenge that just seems to fit with my way of doing things, which is usually a slow and careful evolution as opposed to a big bang.
How would you describe Grand Cafe in five words?
Dreamy, lusty, Parisian, bohemian, delicious.
Sleek, glamorous, fun, evolving, delicious.
According to RestaurantHER.com, only 7% of head chefs are women. How can the industry become more inclusive?
Big question. The whole industry needs to change in order to support humans who can both run a kitchen and sustain a healthy, happy life, with room to care for others outside of work. We also need to get away from this chef culture that only recognizes one archetype as masters of the job and that values “badass-ness” over all else.
We still have a lot of goals for both restaurants, creatively and in terms of finding better ways to create environments that are happy, healthy and full of opportunity for our people. Also maybe very, very teeny tiny shellfish and a cocktail bar.