Chef Tim Fischer was living the dream in New Jersey. The happily married father of one, James Beard Award winning chef overseeing a massive operation with endless resources. He was able to work with farmers and serve guests local, sustainably raised ingredients on a myriad of menus of his making. There was only one thing that could make him decide to pack it all in and leave this ideal position.
One day the phone rang and on the other end was a long-time friend. "What would you think of moving back to Minnesota?"
Immediately, his head was filled with memories of tromping through the woods, sitting in a deer stand over a forest carpeted with newly fallen snow, sitting on Paul Bunyan's toe as a child and pulling together meals for resort guests in the early days of his career. Could he go home again?
Chef Fischer grew up in St. Paul and moved to northwestern Minnesota in his teens, where his first job was in the kitchen at Grandview Lodge. He studied at the Culinary Institute of America before moving around the country, soaking in the regional culinary styles and working with several James Beard Award winning chefs and restaurants along the way including Little Nell in Aspen, The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, and La Mansion del Rio in San Antonio. Whenever he could, he traveled and ate, soaking in regional cuisine from around the world and the US. He honed his style to using the freshest, local ingredients even while working for large companies. This makes him an ideal candidate to run the kitchen inside the Loews hotel (formerly 601 Graves.)
Inside Cosmos at a recent lunch, the chef prepared a couple of dishes showcasing the new menu that he and his team has been writing. Over the next few months Cosmos will undergo some minor remodeling changes, a small sprucing up of the space. The restaurant will close only for a couple of days.
Meanwhile, the champagne bar Releve will remain open and untouched.
Meanwhile, on the first floor, the lobby area will be remodeled to open up the space and create a gathering area at the heart of the hotel. In the spring there will be a new lobby bar concept that will replace Cask and Cookhouse. The new bar will be geared to complement Cosmos and Releve. The menu will focus on small plates, craft beer in addition to cocktails.
Inside the kitchen, Fischer has collected a team of trusted friends, his personal dream team of chef de cuisine and sous chef who he has worked with in the past. They're excitedly digging in with work in the banquet facility, serving hotel guests, chef's tables and testing recipes for the restaurant.
On the day we visited, the chef unveiled a luxurious dish of foie gras benedict served atop a sweet potato polenta cake alongside tender Minnesota duck breast. The entire business was garnished with a fat slice of black truffle. The dish was decadent without being overwhelmingly heavy, dressed with a light touch of hollandaise sauce. "It's breakfast for dinner," the chef explained with barely contained glee.
"We're living in God's country," he continued, speaking of the wealth of ingredients available in Minnesota. It's not just the duck and bitter greens that he's sourcing for the restaurant. Crawfish are coming from Woman Lake, huitlacoche from outside of Grand Forks and cheese from Emmi Roth.
"We want to make dining here and experience," he said.