It’s a match made in locavore heaven. Alan Bergo, who was most recently the executive chef at the now shuttered Salt Cellar has signed on to take over the kitchen at Lucia’s in Minneapolis. Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl of Mpls./St. Paul Magazine reports that the Bergo, who pens The Forager Chef blog will be installed as the next head of the 30 year-old restaurant just off the corner of Hennepin Avenue and 31st Street in Uptown.
Lucia’s was originally begun by chef Lucia Watson, who passionately believes that locally sourced ingredients were best served and preserved at the peak of their seasonality and her menu always followed those ebbs and flows. Watson’s restaurant continually evolved, eventually becoming what Moskowitz Grumdahl calls the “Chez Panisse of Minneapolis.” At the end of 2014 it was announced that Watson would sell the business and retire, but the new owners promised that the restaurant’s dedication to beautiful, local food would remain intact.
Bergo moved up through the ranks of Lenny Russo’s St. Paul restaurant Heartland. Another iconic Twin Cities eater wholly dedicated to seasonal ingredients. Russo moved his restaurant from the sleepier Mac Groveland neighborhood to a bustling part of Lowertown in part due to its proximity to the St. Paul Farmers Market. His passion for local farmers and cuisine is shared by his staff. Bergo was no exception.
The Salt Cellar was a brief, if uneven foray into a throw-back steakhouse, which Bergo wrote eloquently about on his blog. “This restaurant was my firstborn (the first place I ever opened as head chef), and yet it was never really entirely my own,” he wrote, admitting, “The original concept of the restaurant (retro steakhouse) was a little awkward, a little stilted.” As time progressed, he did attempt to slowly steer the eatery into a more modern direction. Unfortunately, it never quite meshed with what owners wanted, where Bergo’s passions lay and what attracted neighborhood diners. (The restaurant is owned by the people behind Eagle Street Grille and OxCart Alehouse. The location at Selby and Western in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill is undergoing rebranding and we have heard the words “sports” and “bar” bandied about.)
As for Lucia’s, Bergo is sifting through Watson’s recipes and getting ready to get down to the business of cooking beautiful, locally sourced food again.
- Lucia’s Gets a New Chef: Alan Bergo! [MSPMag]
- Rest in Peace, Salt Cellar [ForagerChef]
- Lucia Watson is Selling her Restaurant, Wine Bar and Bakery [EMPLS]
- All Lucia’s Coverage [EMPLS]