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 last five months – is the hotel’s new director of all food and beverage operations. He started the position, which includes overseeing weddings and events, in-room dining and both back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house operations at the on-sight restaurant Nine Twenty-Five, on Monday.
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 Ave. 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 closed the restaurant in December of 2016 after a 14-year run. Previously, he served as the executive chef at W.A. Frost from 1998 to 2002.
He has also been nominated for the James Beard award Best Chef: Midwest six times, and has been a semi-finalist in the same category three other times.
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 sometime 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 a 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.”
Russo’s chef de cuisine at Nine Twenty-Five will be Daniel Cataldo, who has absorbed the role of interim chef since Lund’s departure. Cataldo cooked at the North Loop’s Spoon and Stable before joining the hotel under Lund.