James Beard-nominated Michelle Gayer is stepping away from the Salty Tart, the attention-grabbing bakery she founded in 2008.

“It’s time for a break,” she said. “I need to leave, I need to stop doing this, you know?”

Gayer (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo) may be leaving, but the Salty Tart isn’t going anywhere. Tim McKee, who invited Gayer to open a bakery/cafe in his Market House Collaborative in St. Paul’s Lowertown, is taking over.

“He’s hired pastry chef Adrienne Odom, which is so great,” said Gayer. “I’m just thrilled that Tim has chosen her. She’s so talented, and so kind, and she has such amazing experience. I couldn’t be happier.”

Odom (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo) is one of the Twin Cities’ most accomplished pastry chefs. She spent nearly the past decade in the in-house bakery at Parasole Restaurant Holdings (McKee’s role as the company’s vice president of culinary development overlapped with Odom’s tenure), overseeing sweets and breads for the company’s restaurants, which include Manny’s Steakhouse, Chino Latino, Salut Bar Americain, Libertine and the Good Earth. Prior to that, Odom was pastry chef at the former Aquavit, as well as McKee’s former Solera and La Belle Vie.

At the Salty Tart, McKee said that he’s maintaining the status quo.

“We’re definitely keeping things as is for the time being,” he said. “The Salty Tart is such a strong brand. It’s part of the fabric of the city.”

As for Gayer, she said she has plenty of short-term plans.

“I’m going to take a month off,” she said. “I want to go camping, I want to garden, I want to cook all the meals for my kids, I want to sleep in, and I want to entertain again. You’ll find me at the Richfield pool, baking in the sun.” 

Longer term?

“I’m going to work for Taher,” she said, referring to the giant food service company. “What I’m going to do, we haven’t figured that out yet.”

The transition is happening quickly. This Saturday is Gayer’s last at the Mill City Farmers Market (pictured, above), where she has operated a popular stand for a number of years.

“And then I’ll be able to go to the market and walk around, and chat with vendors, and decide what we’re going to cook for dinner tonight,” she said. “And not come home and collapse because I’ve been up since two in the morning.”

The Iowa native moved to the Twin Cities in 2004, after spending a high-profile decade working for Chicago’s Charlie Trotter. During that tenure, Gayer was nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef by the James Beard Foundation, and Bon Appetit magazine named her the nation’s top pastry chef. She also co-wrote a cookbook, “Charlie Trotter’s Desserts,” with Trotter.

She was recruited to Minneapolis by Franklin Street Bakery co-owners Wayne Kostroski and Mark Haugen, and operated a bakeshop at their East Franklin Avenue location for nearly two years.

That was followed by a teaching stint at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and a gig in the pastry kitchen at La Belle Vie.

In 2008 she struck out on her own and launched the Salty Tart in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. The bakery’s tiny physical footprint proved to be the opposite of its huge reputation.

Along with developing a fanatical customer base, Gayer earned an additional three James Beard nominations (and a slew of Beard semi-finalist nods), and landed berths at both the Minnesota State Fair and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. In 2014, her work was featured on the cover of Food & Wine magazine.

In late 2017, Gayer expanded across the river with a bakery/cafe in the Market House Collaborative. The Salty Tart left the MGM in 2018 and briefly occupied a retail/wholesale operation in south Minneapolis, which closed in April.  

“There are a lot of mixed feelings,” said Gayer. “Obviously I’m super-grateful for all of the opportunities that I’ve had to do what I love. It has been a blast. Minneapolis isn’t my home city, and everyone has always been super-kind. But it’s time to do something else. Life is short, you know? You’ll all be in good hands with Tim and Adrienne.”

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