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Chef Paul Berglund is leaving four-star Bachelor Farmer

The Bachelor Farmer is losing its four-star chef.

Paul Berglund, a transplant from St. Louis by way of California, is leaving the North Loop restaurant after a critically lauded six-year run.

“This was a big decision, and a really tough decision,” he said. “Like every major decision that I’ve made as an adult, I’m listening to my gut. This is a job that takes a ton of work, and a ton of drive, and in the past few months it has become clear that some of that drive is missing in me. My gut is telling me that this is the time to wrap up this chapter of my professional life.”

It’s been quite a chapter. Berglund, a former Naval officer, arrived in Minneapolis after a stint at the well-regarded Oliveto in Oakland, Calif. His New Nordic cooking — which later transitioned into a focus on regional, seasonal ingredients — earned accolades from around the country, including four stars and 2011 Restaurant of the Year from the Star Tribune. In 2012, Bon Appetit magazine named the Bachelor Farmer one of the magazine’s 10 best new restaurants, and in 2016 Berglund won his industry's equivalent of the Oscar when he was named Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation.

He's leaving the restaurant at the end of the month. His next move? “I didn’t make this decision with something else in mind,” he said. “I’m not leaving to go somewhere else. My plan is to stay in Minneapolis. This is my home for now. Food is my passion. In the past couple of years, good food advocacy has become a bigger piece of the puzzle for me, and has become a bigger part of my role as a chef, and I intend to continue to work in that sphere. Whatever I do next, that’s going to be cornerstone.”

Co-owner Eric Dayton said that he and Berglund have been talking about Berglund’s decision for months.

“No doubt about it, it’s a big loss, and it’s sad, because Paul is a great friend, and a big part of our opening team,” he said. “This wasn’t something that I sought, but in talking to Paul it became clear that it’s the right decision for him, which by definition is right for us, and for the restaurant. We’re glad that Paul is doing what is right for him. And we’re excited for the next chapter for us, too.”

What is that next chapter?

“The restaurant has been through a constant evolution since the day it opened,” he said. “And it will continue to change and evolve and improve. This isn’t about going into some kind of autopilot, it’s about continuing the progression that Paul has created. What isn’t going to change are the values that Paul has infused into the kitchen, they’re at the core of our DNA. Paul has set the restaurant on a great trajectory.”

Dayton also said that a search is on for Berglund’s replacement.

“You have to recognize that nothing lasts forever,” said Dayton. “You’ve got to be ready to embrace change, navigate through it when it happens. We’ve been through a major transition before. Pip Hanson was the founding bartender of Marvel Bar, and we similarly relied upon the strength of the team to navigate successfully through that transition when he left. We were a James Beard semifinalist with Pip leading the bar, and we’ve been a James Beard semifinalist again with the team that’s running the bar now. So, yes, we’ve done it before, I know we can do it again.”

There’s no timeline, however.

“I don’t feel any rush,” said Dayton. “We were really thoughtful and deliberate when we hired our first chef, when we hired Paul. He was the last of our key hires for our initial opening team because we held out for the perfect person for the job, and that process led us to Paul. That’s the same mindset that I’m applying to this process. This isn’t about just filling the role, it’s about finding the right person for the opportunity, and we’ll see how long that takes. When we opened this restaurant, I didn’t have four stars in mind, I didn’t have James Beard awards in mind. I never would have dreamed of some of the things we’ve accomplished under Paul’s leadership. I’m so grateful to Paul, and it makes replacing him all that much harder.”

Burger Friday: At Dalton & Wade, a patty melt lands in the North Loop

The burger: Take a peek at the resumes of the team behind the North Loop's new Dalton & Wade, and the word “burger” almost instantly comes to mind. After all, the ownership team of the growing My Burger chain is involved, as is chef Eli Renn, who spent a number of years turning out some of the western suburbs’ most memorable burgers during his tenure at the Golden Nugget Tavern & Grille.

Nope. No burger at Dalton & Wade. Instead, there’s a patty melt. A good one.

“We knew that everybody – well, not everybody, but certain people – would be looking for a burger,” said co-owner John Abdo. “We’ve made our living with burgers. So we decided to buck the expectation, and the patty melt is a fantastic alternative.”

The decision also suits the menu’s pretention-free feel.

“This whole menu was based on the concept that this is food that you can get just outside the city limits, anywhere in the country,” said Scott Pampuch, the chef who acted as a consultant on the project. “When you look at mom-and-pop diners and roadhouse joints, what do you see? Patty melts. Diners didn’t have buns, they had bread. You know, ‘I can make you a burger, but it has to be on toast.’”

There’s something to be said for skipping the bun and going for a few thick-cut slices of Texas toast (in this instance, the loaves hail from Saint Agnes Baking Co.). “Then we butter the heck out of it,” said Abdo. “We almost pour on the butter. We butter both sides, and we toast both sides on the griddle, to really give it that extra layer of lightly crispy texture. That’s four sides of lightly caramelized bread.”

Works for me, big time. The patty is a bruiser, nearly a half-pound, its weightiness in distinct contrast to the skinny, diner-style patties that are all the rage. It's grilled to medium on the flattop, boasts a big, beefy bite and holds together nicely. Toppings are plentiful, portions-wise, but their numbers are kept to a minimum.

Red onions are marinated overnight in Old Crow – that’s a bargain-basement shout-out to the bar, which is stocked with ka-jillions of whiskey labels – then charred on the flattop grill. They retain a bit of a crunch -- they're not soft and sweet in the caramelized onion school of burger toppings -- and the booze gives them a bit of a bite. They’re paired with earthy, oven-roasted mushrooms.

Instead of standard-issue American, the cheese is Muenster. “It’s a little different, it’s a little funky,” said Abdo. “It adds character without piling on another 15 toppings.” It’s also delicious, and it rates high on the all-important Melt-o-Meter.

The verdict? Nicely done. It's different enough to enjoy as a not-burger experience, yet it still contains all of the requisite (and, let’s face it, beloved) burger elements. Another winning trait: it’s easily shareable.

Price: $14.

Fries: None. Instead, the kitchen includes a handful of house-made potato chips, liberally dusted in a perked-up (with sweet undertones), stain-your-fingers barbecue spice blend. They're made fresh each morning, and they’re cruelly addictive.

Where he burgers: “Because I’m so close to them on such a regular basis, I probably eat, on average, about three burgers a week,” said Abdo with a laugh. “I’ve rarely seen a burger that I didn’t like. I love the one at the 112, it’s such an unexpected pleasure. That Brie melts so perfectly, and it’s a great grind of meat. For the standard meat-cheese-bun, there’s the  one at Parlour. Everyone loves it, but there’s a reason everyone loves it. And if it’s allowed, I’d love to throw the bacon cheeseburger at the Nicollet Island Inn into the mix [it’s barely allowed, as his family owns the property, but that’s OK; a solid recommendation is a solid recommendation].

Meanwhile, in St. Paul: Abdo offered an update on the My Burger outlet that’s under construction at the corner of Snelling and Grand avenues in St. Paul. “It’s coming along,” he said. “We tried to get it open before the State Fair, but that’s not going to happen. So now we’re going to wait. We’ll glide open the weekend after the fair closes.”

Address book: 323 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-236-4020. Kitchen open 4 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 4 to around 10 p.m. Sunday.

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