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DeRusha Eats: The Rise Of Chef Malone's Restaurant, Grand Café

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Grand Café, a restaurant where every detail is cared for, was named one of the best restaurant of the year in 2018 by Food and Wine Magazine.

Chef Jamie Malone has a story about everything in her restaurant: her mangalitsa ham comes from a woman in Tennessee who only sells to her and acclaimed chef Sean Brock. Malone said her foie gras mousse with orange glaze is an old technique and recipe from the 1800s.

The rise of Malone's south Minneapolis restaurant, Grand Café, is nothing crazy.

It was a solid neighborhood restaurant for years, but when Malone and her team took it over in 2017, it started getting national attention and her Paris Brest filled with foie gras mousse in 2018 was named the dish of the year.

"We want to hide the technique, we don't want you to worry about that, we want you to have a good time," Malone said.

Malone started in the restaurant business as a teenager, waiting tables in the small town of Mahtomedi, although she said she always had visions of being a chef.

"That's what I wanted to do, but you don't know how to get in," said Malone. "It's so intimidating. I wanted to be in a restaurant in any capacity."

After 15 years cooking in Minneapolis at La Belle Vie and at the sustainable seafood restaurant Sea Change, Grand Cafe is fully her vision.

"How do we extract the important things of fine dining and how do we let the other things that aren't important fall by the wayside?" Malone said.

The dining experience isn't as fussy as you might expect looking at the sheer beauty of the food. Part of that is the environment of the dining room.

Malone chose lots of soft pink and bright fresh flowers.

"It's like openly romantic. It's OK. We don't have to side-step that," said Malone. "It's a soft, sweet, romantic place."

The feminine side of the design is also reflected in Malone's staff. One of the finest restaurants in the Upper Midwest is run by women.

"We hire and promote the best people, a lot of them usually happen to be women," she said.

Malone's General Manager is Nikki Clocker, a St. Cloud native, her chef de cuisine is Britt St. Claire, the chef who helped open the small tasting-menu restaurant, Birdie.

Malone said she thinks there should be more women in head chef roles.

"You can be feminine and be soft and gentle and still be a commanding leader," Malone said. "In kitchens, you're used to the loudest guy in the room getting the job and we need to change that direction," Malone said.

Malone is a finalist for Best Chef: Midwest in the 2018 James Beard Awards, along with two other Minneapolis chefs, Ann Kim from Young Joni and Pizzaria Lola, and Christina Nguyen, the chef at Hai Hai and Hola Arepa. They'll find out in mid-May if any of them have won.

"We all work so hard, myself, and the whole team. We feel passionately about what we're doing," Malone said. "You don't feel like you deserve to be there, I'm still processing. But it's great."

Grand Café
3804 Grand Ave. S, Minneapolis 55409
Open Monday-Saturday 5 p.m.- 1 p.m. ;Sunday Brunch 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.

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