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Online Controversy Follows Minnesota Restaurateur After Being Named James Beard Award Semifinalist

Plus, Twin Cities restaurants show support for Ukraine — and more intel

Minneapolis - Kim Bartmann had success in buying and renovating Bryant’s Bowl, and has now moved further down Lake Street, buying property which she has renovated into Barbette’s Bar and Restaurant. IN THIS PHOTO: Kim Bartmann, center in red, meets wit
Restaurateur Kim Bartmann in red.
Getty Images

The 2022 James Beard Award semifinalists list, announced on February 23, saw several nods given to chefs and restaurants in the Twin Cities. Now, the Star Tribune reports that one nominee, Kim Bartmann, of the Bartmann Group, has once again been at the center of controversy. In 2021, Bartmann’s hospitality company, behind eight Twin Cities restaurants, including Tiny Diner and Red Stag Supperclub, reached a settlement of $230,000 to pay back wages and overtime for its workers.

Former employees and social media users, meanwhile, felt that Bartmann’s nomination for “outstanding hospitality,” a category focused not on an individual chef or restaurant, but the business backing them, violated the James Beard Award code of ethics, which lists “stealing of wages or tips” as a disqualifier. Bartmann, for her part, told the paper she “did not violate” the awards’ code of ethics, and chalked up the accusations to “misogyny.”

The New York Times’ Pete Wells took to Twitter to lend a voice to the chorus, adding that while this type of settlement, where there is no admission of wrongdoing, is common in restaurant wage cases: “If Beard bans those restaurants from the awards, they’d be acting on an accusation, not a guilty plea or verdict. But if it doesn’t ban them, it could look hypocritical,” he said. The online firestorm comes after the Beard awards’ 2020 cancellation amid accusations of lack of diversity and finalists facing workplace misconduct allegations; the foundation promised to overhaul its internal system, after a two-year hiatus.

Two Northeast restaurants call it quits in Minneapolis

Side-by-side Central Avenue restaurants, Sen Yai Sen Lek, specializing in Thai food, and Dipped & Debris, a custard and sandwich favorite, will close up shop on April 23, according to a Facebook post. Co-owners Joe and Holly Hatch-Surisook shared that after 14 years in the area, they would cease operations, but did not give a specific reason for the decision. They added, “...we are giving ourselves a couple of months to continue to welcome you to our restaurants, to share food and laughs and memories, to celebrate all the good things these spaces have been, and to say thank you and good-bye.”

Twin Cities restaurants show support for Ukraine

As some bars drop Russian vodka in place of Ukraine’s, Bring Me the News reports that the Twin Cities’ most notable Ukrainian spot, Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company in Northeast Minneapolis, and Moscow on the Hill, a Russian restaurant in Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, are using their food platforms to condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Elsewhere in Minneapolis, the city is lighting up in blue and yellow.