Less than a year after debuting near the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Wayzata’s Hotel Landing has made a splashy new hire: longtime Twin Cities restaurant veteran and multi-James Beard nominee Lenny Russo.
The former chef and owner of St. Paul’s former Heartland Restaurant and Wine Bar — who has been running the kitchen at the Commodore for the past five months — is the hotel’s new (and first) director of all food and beverage operations, which includes overseeing weddings and events, in-room dining and both back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house operations at the on-site restaurant Nine Twenty-Five (925 Lake St. E., Wayzata, ninetwentyfive.com).
Ryan Lund, Nine Twenty-Five’s opening chef, moved to North Carolina in mid-December to open his own restaurant there.
“We wanted someone who would really own it,” said Uzay Tumer, the corporate director of food and beverage for Hay Creek Hotels, Hotel Landing’s management company. “Someone who had experience with that owner-operating piece and had high standards for service and quality of food and beverage.
“What Nine Twenty-Five needs is a leader with direction to make it a player in Wayzata’s culinary scene.”
Russo took the head chef job at the Commodore Bar & Restaurant, a 1920s art-deco-themed eatery near Summit Avenue in St. Paul, in September. But he’s best known for his work at the former Heartland, an acclaimed Lowertown restaurant that was a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement locally. Russo, who has been nominated for six James Beard awards, closed the restaurant in December 2016 after a 14-year run.
At Hotel Landing, Russo will spend some time adapting to the new role before implementing his own visible stamp. The first menu at Nine Twenty-Five touting his own dishes is expected to debut in late March or April. Expect to see nods to the kind of food he prepared for many years at Heartland.
“Lenny is a super-talented chef, and has a brand that’s specific to Minnesota,” Tumer said. “His forte has always been hyper-local and regional, staying in touch with all the farmers and growers. That’s what was successful for him at Heartland, and that’s what we want him to do at Nine Twenty-Five.”
Charlie Awards honor locals in the food industry
Winners of the 2018 Charlie Awards were announced Sunday afternoon at the Pantages Theatre, honoring individuals from Young Joni, Bellecour, Saint Dinette and more.
The seventh annual awards celebrate the best of the Twin Cities food and beverage community.
This year, Ann Kim and Conrad Leifur of Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza were given the nod for Outstanding Restaurateur, the latest in a string of praises that have followed the debut of Young Joni in late 2016. Chef/owner Gavin Kaysen’s Bellecour, which opened last March, was named Outstanding Restaurant. And Outstanding Chef went to Jamie Malone, who revived Minneapolis classic Grand Cafe with a fresh eye and skillful touch.
Meanwhile, on the heels of Super Bowl LII, the Lifetime Achievement award was given to Wayne Kostroski, co-owner of Cuisine Concepts and founder of Taste of the NFL, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness and funds for hunger relief.
Other winners include Mucci’s (Outstanding Service), Emily Marks of Bachelor Farmer (Outstanding Baker/Pastry Chef), Adam Eaton of Saint Dinette (Rising Star), Brie Roland of St. Genevieve (Beverage Innovator), Moroccan Flavors (Hidden Gem) and Lachelle Cunningham and Michelle Horovitz of Breaking Bread Cafe (Community Hero).
Coming: Eats at Theo Wirth
Theodore Wirth Park will get a restaurant this summer as part of a new four-season, multifunction facility.
The Trailhead, a 14,000-square-foot lodge, will act as a launching point for a multitude of outdoor activities in the park, offering equipment rentals from snowshoes to mountain bikes, and will also boast various classes and clubs, locker rooms and a lounge.
The eatery? Cajun Twist (eatcajuntwist.com), a three-year-old catering company that is getting its first brick-and-mortar location. Dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya and red beans and rice will be part of the menu; beer and wine will also be available, and there will be patio seating during the warmer months.
“Having a permanent home for Cajun Twist is going to be a game-changer,” said founder Teona Washington, in a release. “My team is thrilled for this opportunity.”
News around town
Hai Hai (2121 University Av. NE., Mpls., haihaimpls.com), a Southeast Asian street foods restaurant that the owners of Hola Arepa opened late last year, is now serving brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays — plates include the likes of Laksa shrimp and grits and an omelet báhn mì.
And two new restaurants are now open to the public: La Mesa (230 Cedar Lake Road S., Mpls., lamesampls.com), an Ecuadorean-inspired eatery in the former Sparks location in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood, and Sweet Chow (116 1st Av. N., Mpls., chowtakeaway.com), a casual Asian fusion establishment in the North Loop.
Read full reviews and other restaurant news at startribune.com/dining.