The Bachelor Farmer is losing its four-star chef.
Paul Berglund, a transplant from St. Louis by way of California, is leaving the North Loop restaurant after a critically lauded six-year run.
“This was a big decision, and a really tough decision,” he said. “Like every major decision that I’ve made as an adult, I’m listening to my gut. This is a job that takes a ton of work, and a ton of drive, and in the past few months it has become clear that some of that drive is missing in me. My gut is telling me that this is the time to wrap up this chapter of my professional life.”
It’s been quite a chapter. Berglund, a former Naval officer, arrived in Minneapolis after a stint at the well-regarded Oliveto in Oakland, Calif. His New Nordic cooking — which later transitioned into a focus on regional, seasonal ingredients — earned accolades from around the country, including four stars and 2011 Restaurant of the Year from the Star Tribune. In 2012, Bon Appetit magazine named the Bachelor Farmer one of the magazine’s 10 best new restaurants, and in 2016 Berglund won his industry's equivalent of the Oscar when he was named Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation.
He's leaving the restaurant at the end of the month. His next move? “I didn’t make this decision with something else in mind,” he said. “I’m not leaving to go somewhere else. My plan is to stay in Minneapolis. This is my home for now. Food is my passion. In the past couple of years, good food advocacy has become a bigger piece of the puzzle for me, and has become a bigger part of my role as a chef, and I intend to continue to work in that sphere. Whatever I do next, that’s going to be cornerstone.”
Co-owner Eric Dayton said that he and Berglund have been talking about Berglund’s decision for months.
“No doubt about it, it’s a big loss, and it’s sad, because Paul is a great friend, and a big part of our opening team,” he said. “This wasn’t something that I sought, but in talking to Paul it became clear that it’s the right decision for him, which by definition is right for us, and for the restaurant. We’re glad that Paul is doing what is right for him. And we’re excited for the next chapter for us, too.”
What is that next chapter?
“The restaurant has been through a constant evolution since the day it opened,” he said. “And it will continue to change and evolve and improve. This isn’t about going into some kind of autopilot, it’s about continuing the progression that Paul has created. What isn’t going to change are the values that Paul has infused into the kitchen, they’re at the core of our DNA. Paul has set the restaurant on a great trajectory.”
Dayton also said that a search is on for Berglund’s replacement.
“You have to recognize that nothing lasts forever,” said Dayton. “You’ve got to be ready to embrace change, navigate through it when it happens. We’ve been through a major transition before. Pip Hanson was the founding bartender of Marvel Bar, and we similarly relied upon the strength of the team to navigate successfully through that transition when he left. We were a James Beard semifinalist with Pip leading the bar, and we’ve been a James Beard semifinalist again with the team that’s running the bar now. So, yes, we’ve done it before, I know we can do it again.”
There’s no timeline, however.
“I don’t feel any rush,” said Dayton. “We were really thoughtful and deliberate when we hired our first chef, when we hired Paul. He was the last of our key hires for our initial opening team because we held out for the perfect person for the job, and that process led us to Paul. That’s the same mindset that I’m applying to this process. This isn’t about just filling the role, it’s about finding the right person for the opportunity, and we’ll see how long that takes. When we opened this restaurant, I didn’t have four stars in mind, I didn’t have James Beard awards in mind. I never would have dreamed of some of the things we’ve accomplished under Paul’s leadership. I’m so grateful to Paul, and it makes replacing him all that much harder.”