The Mill: Gavin Kaysen announces this year’s Synergy Series lineup

Gavin Kaysen prepares a dish for The Growler's Slay to Gourmet series // Photo by Matt Lien

Gavin Kaysen prepares a dish for The Growler’s Slay to Gourmet series // Photo by Matt Lien

Traci Des Jardins, Ludo Lefebvre, Jeremy Fox, and Daniela Soto-Innes are the next lineup of chefs to grace the kitchen of Spoon and Stable for Gavin Kaysen’s 2018 Synergy Series. Here’s what you need to know about each of these star chefs:

Earning a reputation as the “vegetable whisperer,” Jeremy Fox was the head chef of Napa’s revered vegetarian eatery Ubuntu—located below a yoga studio, because California—until 2010, when he made the decision to step away for his own mental health. Since then, he’s moved to Santa Monica and taken up the position of head chef at Rustic Canyon. With a newly published book “On Vegetables” and a fourth James Beard nom under his belt, it’s safe to say Fox’s comeback is secured.

Traci Des Jardins is the chef and owner of San Francisco’s Jardinière, as well as chef and partner at San Francisco’s Public House, Mijita, Arguello, and The Commissary. Des Jardins’ family hails from the Sonora region of Mexico, whose influence can be seen in much of her work. She focuses largely on fresh, locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients from sustainably-operated farms and ranches.

From top left clockwise, Ludo Lefebvre (photo via Ludo Lefebvre Facebook), Traci Des Jardins (photo via Traci Des Jardins Facebook), Jeremy Fox (photo via Rustic Canyon Restaurant Facebook), Daniela Soto-Innes (photo via Daniela Soto-Innes Facebook).

From top left clockwise, Ludo Lefebvre (photo via Ludo Lefebvre Facebook), Traci Des Jardins (photo via Traci Des Jardins Facebook), Jeremy Fox (photo via Rustic Canyon Restaurant Facebook), Daniela Soto-Innes (photo via Daniela Soto-Innes Facebook).

Deemed the “king of pop-ups” by Bon Appetit, Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre is a French chef, restaurateur, author and well-known TV personality. He moved to Los Angeles in 1996 where he began working at L’Orangerie at the invitation of Gilles Epie. Since then, he’s gathered a count of ventures and accolades too extensive to list, which has earned him the reputation as a pioneer for modern fine dining in Los Angeles. His style is French at heart with complex international twists.

Daniela Soto-Innes is the chef and partner of Cosme and ATLA in New York City, and the youngest of the Synergy chefs. At just 26 years old, Soto-Innes already has a James Beard award for Rising Star Chef, and in 2017 was listed in Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30: Food & Drink. Cosme earned the prestigious honor of the 40th ranking in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. She focuses her innate talents on simple, pared down cuisine rooted in Mexican tradition.

At this year’s Synergy Series, there’s an option to purchase season tickets which guarantee a spot; otherwise a first-come-first-serve ticket for $350 per guest in the dining room and $450 per guest at the chef’s counter. Cough up people, you’re not going to want to miss it.


Mankato Brewing Company // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Mankato Brewing Company // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg announced its readers’ choice selections for Great American Craft Beer Bars for every state. Perhaps serving as a surprise for many in the Cities, the winner for Minnesota was Mankato Brewing. I guess that’s as good a reason as any to head to Mankato.

Surly Brewing is soon to release its first canned “gluten-reduced” beer, Hopshifter IPA. The brewery released some gluten-reduced beers last year, becoming the first in the Cities to release a barley-brewed beer in which the gluten has been reduced.

Dogfish Head is bringing back one of its most talked about beers (for various reasons)—Chicha. The ancient Peruvian recipe calls for corn that is chewed, spit out, and then fermented. This particular batch was brewed with the help of over 100 Dogfish Head employees, who so kindly masticated the purple corn. “I’m especially excited about this year’s Chicha as I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with my coworkers chewing purple corn and spitting it into cups to create the most physically-collaborative batch of beer we’ve ever brewed,” says Sam Calagione, CEO and founder of Dogfish Head.


Mia Vang, crowned as "The Egg Roll Queen" // Photo via Egg Roll Queen Facebook

Mai Vang, dubbed “The Eggroll Queen” // Photo via Eggroll Queen Facebook

The Eggroll Queen of St. Paul has come under some hard times as of recent. Mai Vang was slingin’ some of the Cities’ best egg rolls up until January 14, when her food trailer caught fire during a fundraiser to help her uncle cover the cost of her grandmother’s funeral. Now some good news—the community rallied around the Queen and set up a GoFundMe, which has surpassed the $7,600 goal. Pending a health inspection, Vang hopes to be back up and running mid-April.

Hot Indian Foods is bringing their famous “Indurrito” to the Mall of America. The Indian eatery, born in the Midtown Global Market, has since spread to its very own food truck and a booth at Target Field. The MOA location will open on the third level this summer, and will come with all the favorites including basmati rice with dry rubbed lamb, channa masala, chicken tikka, and spinach paneer.

Teona Washington started Cajun Twist with the only goal being to bring good Louisiana-style cuisine to her friends and family. Beginning as a business delivering top-notch gumbo to offices during the weekday lunch hour, Cajun Twist will soon have its own home at The Trailhead, a new facility in north Minneapolis’ Theodore Wirth Regional Park. The “twist” is that Washington will be taking foods across all types and regions—think burgers, ramen, and Mexican—and give them some New Orleans flair. Plus, beignets and cafe au laits every day.

A year after opening in Wayzata on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Hotel Landing has hired Lenny Russo to serve as the hotel’s director of all food and beverage operations. The longtime chef and restaurateur, as well as six-time James Beard Award nominee, started the position last week, which includes full operation of the hotel’s restaurant, Nine Twenty-Five.

Sweet Chow is the newest veggie-friendly spot to hit the North Loop neighborhood. The Asian street food joint is hoping to fill a perceived gap with good food, casual atmosphere, and veggie-ful offerings. A bar program is still in the works, but for now there’s an excellent wine list along with a few craft beer options.

First Smalley’s, now this: After 60 years in business, Stillwater’s Brine’s has announced that has closed for good. Owner Gerry Brine stated that it was simply time for him to step away and focus on other things, with no one else in the family willing to take over. Luckily, it appears that the building will be taken over by another bar and restaurant, although it hasn’t yet been announced who.

The winners of the 2018 Charlie Awards—often thought of as the local answer to James Beard Awards—were announced at the Pantages Theatre on Sunday. Some winners included the married duo behind Young Joni, Bellecour, Mucci’s, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award for Wayne Kostroski, founder of Taste of the NFL, a nonprofit that raises funds for hunger relief.


Toki Wright // Photo via Toki Wright Facebook

Toki Wright // Photo via Toki Wright Facebook

Toki Wright is soon to start hosting his own show on The Current, called “Wright About Now.” Beginning February 28, the hip-hop artist, teacher, community leader, and previous radio host will be on the air every Wednesday from 10pm–11pm, focusing on hip-hop, R&B, soul, dancehall, reggae, electronic, and much more. “’Wright About Now’ will focus on hip-hop, the people and music that influenced the culture, plus the styles, sounds and stories that have come from that root,” says Toki. The show will also feature exclusive interviews and inside scoops on events and releases from independent artists.

Target will soon be releasing a “Stranger Things” clothing collection, including the now-famous brontosaurus sweatshirt worn by a character in the show, originally sold in the gift shop of the Science Museum of Minnesota back in the 1980s. The Science Museum started reselling the sweatshirt after it came under high demand following the release of the show’s second season in October.

Against all odds, the U.S. Men’s Curling Team rose up and took the gold in the final match against Sweden over the weekend, final score 10–7. One would think that a gold medal-winning team would get at least some star treatment on their journey back from Pyeongchang. But alas, the U.S. Men’s Curling team, which took the gold in the final match against Sweden, rode coach on the 14-hour Delta flight from South Korea to Duluth.

The Mill is The Growler’s regular digest of all things new and notable in the world of food, drink, and culture. Stop back weekly for restaurant news, brewery rumors, and more. Have some news you want to share? Got some gossip to dish? Drop us a line at [email protected]