Correction: Justin Sutherland and Pat Conroy have been named managing partners of the Madison Restaurant Group. An earlier version of the story said they had bought the group.
Big things are happening for Justin Sutherland, and not only because he is competing on the new season of “Top Chef” that premieres Dec. 6.
Sutherland, executive chef at Handsome Hog in St. Paul and the recently opened Pearl and the Thief in Stillwater, has been named a managing partner with the Madison Restaurant Group. The group owns the Handsome Hog.
Sutherland will now also oversee the Eagle Street Grille, Public Kitchen & Bar, Gray Duck Tavern, Fitzgerald’s, Green Lantern, Ox Cart Ale House and Ox Cart Rooftop.
He believes this makes him the first black chef in the Twin Cities to be in charge of a multi-restaurant group.
“Progress always feels good, and just advancing diversity in all sectors of life and work in our community is very important,” he said. “It paves roads for those that come next.”
Sutherland will be working with Patrick Conroy, owner of the suburban Muddy Cow chain, who has also been named a managing partner.
The Madison Restaurant Group opened Handsome Hog three years ago and launched several more restaurants since.
Pearl and the Thief and the Muddy Cow restaurants aren’t part of the new business arrangement, but may fall under the brand going forward, Sutherland said.
“Who knows?” he said. “My head is still spinning while trying to wrap my arms around going from two to seven restaurants overnight.”
In the meantime, Sutherland is gearing up for his season of “Top Chef: Kentucky,” in which he competes for a $125,000 prize. It runs on Bravo Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Handsome Hog (203 E. 6th St., St. Paul, 651-340-7710, handsomehog.com) and Pearl and the Thief (112 Main St. N., Stillwater, 651-342-0972, pearlandthief.com) are both hosting watch parties throughout the run. Sutherland won’t say which place he’ll be. “Part of me just wants to watch it at home by myself,” he said.