Minnesota’s first James Beard award-winning chef had a headline-grabbing year.
In the span of 12 months, he left his role as vice president of culinary development at Parasole Restaurant Holdings and partnered with seafood wholesaler the Fish Guys. Then he took over the former Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar square footage to create St. Paul’s first food hall-esque operation. He christened it Market House Collaborative, and its centerpiece is his casual, boundary-pushing seafood-focused restaurant, Octo Fishbar.
Other draws include retail counters for the Fish Guys (Almanac Fish Market) and Peterson Craftsman Meats, and an opening-next-year brewpub from the folks behind Birch’s on the Lake. McKee also tapped pal Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart to launch a breakfast-and-lunch bakery/cafe, and on Saturday mornings through April, he’s inviting St. Paul Farmers Market vendors — and shoppers — into the building.
“He really views this as a collaboration, and that kindness, that generosity, it’s just so rare,” said Gayer. “Every day he asks me, ‘Do you have what you need?’ and then he makes whatever we need to happen, happen. I had no idea that I was going to open a place in St. Paul. But when Tim McKee calls you and asks, ‘Hey, do you wanna ... ?’ Well, yeah, buddy, when it’s Tim McKee, I wanna. He’s one of the good guys.”