[Photo credit: Jon Dahlin]

The American Swedish Institute has hired Graves Hospitality up-and-comer Blake Meier to replace chef John Krattenmaker at the arts organization’s popular Fika. 

The transition for Meier, who was previously the executive chef at Bradstreet Neighborhood Craftshouse, came as a sort of baptism by fire. Thursday marked his first official day with Fika. By Friday, Meier was sweating under a tent along with the rest of the cafe’s staff at the ASI’s “Cocktails at the Castle” event featuring live performances, cocktails and snacks from their newly ordained chef.

“It was kind of crazy,” said Meier who opened Bradstreet’s new location in 2015, when the restaurant relocated from downtown Minneapolis to Lowry Hill. “I was planning the event while I was working at my old job, so I was kind of working at two places at once for a couple weeks.

“You kind of have to win [the new staff] over by showing them you’re going to work as hard as anyone else in the kitchen. You kind of have to earn their respect when you come in and change things over.”

Meier, who has a degree in graphic design to pair with his culinary resume, said he welcomed the opportunity to stretch his wings at the Nordic-inspired restaurant as well as focus on locally sourced products.

“Everything I cooked at Bradstreet, I wanted to put everything into,” he said. “But I kind of felt like creativity I didn’t have enough outlets.

“I’m very creative, I love just pairing flavors and colors and all these things on a plate. I’ve always kind of looked at my [design background] as taking a canvas or a blank page, and I kind of use a plate instead. I kind of transitioned to that. You’re still using these elements of design and layout, but building out ingredients and food.”

Meier said he’s had a few early lessons in Nordic cuisine via family gatherings with his fiancée, who is of Scandinavian heritage. Now, he’s pouring himself into researching a culture he says he’s always been “curious” about.

Moving forward, diners can expect the tenants of the menu to remain with a few extra flairs – including a new hearty sausage dish – arriving as Meier and the rest of the staff transition to a winter menu.

Meanwhile, over at Bradstreet, Meier’s former sous chef, Josh Zellmer, will take over moving forward. Zellmer said he plans to pair down the menu to focus on casual fare that will work alongside the cocktails which remain the Craftshouse’s focus.

“I think we’re going to head in a little bit of a different direction,” said Zellmer, who worked with Meier at Cosmos before joining him at Bradstreet. “We’re going to have more of a cocktail environment, heavy on the appetizers and salads and sandwiches. I think that’s what’s been selling and that’s what people want.

“We’re a great cocktail bar and we just want to complement our drinks with great food.”