Russo is currently chef/proprietor of Heartland Restaurant & Farm District Market in St. Paul. He has over thirty years experience in the food and beverage industry and has held numerous positions including executive chef, general manager, food and beverage director and corporate chef for several Twin Cities companies among them being U.S. Restaurants, Aveda Corporation, W.A. Frost & Company, Faegre’s, the Loring Cafe, The Northland Inn Executive Conference Center , Blackberry Creek Market and the New French Cafe.
In addition he has consulted restaurants in Charleston, SC; Atlanta and Savannah, Ga.; Miami, Fl; and Santa Fe, NM. He also has extensive experience in retail food sales in both the gourmet and mass market segments. He was formally trained in clinical psychology at New College in Sarasota, Florida, and spent six years as a child and family psychotherapist before devoting his energy full time to being a chef. As a chef, he has been featured in every major Twin Cities publication as well as Gourmet, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Food Arts, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Constitution-Journal, Seattle Times, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Robb Report, Organic Style, Food Service News, United Press International, USA Today, D Magazine and Midwest Living among other national and regional publications.
He has also made several television and radio appearances both nationally and in various local and regional markets. Russo, along with his wife and partner, Mega Hoehn, opened Heartland in October, 2002. Awards both locally and nationally include: “Best New Restaurant, 2003”, one of the “Twin Cities Top Four Restaurants, 2003”, “Best Neighborhood Restaurant, 2004, 2005”, “Best Restaurant 2006-2008” “Best Chef 2007”, “Restaurateur of the Year 2007, “Best desserts”, “Best Wine Bar”, “Most Organic and Sustainable” and “Top 100 Restaurants in the World”.
Heartland has also received the prestigious Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” from 2003 -2008”, In 2006, Russo was recruited by Bon Appetit Management Company to create and open the restaurants for the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. He completed that project in March 2007. In 2008 & 2009, Chef Russo was named a James Beard Foundation Semifinalist for Best Chef Midwest, and was named a finalist in 2010.
Future projects include a book project and the development of a television series focusing on small family farms and sustainable agriculture. His new restaurant is located at 289 East Fifth Street in the Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul, across the street from the St. Paul Farmers Market.