When Stephanie Shimp, Luke Shimp and David Burley, co-owners of the Blue Plate Restaurant Co. (Highland Grill, Edina Grill, Longfellow Grill, Groveland Tap, 3 Squares and Scusi, www.blueplaterestaurant company.com), heard about the fire that ripped through the Nook (492 Hamline Av. S., St. Paul) last week, they went into quick action.

On Saturday, they turned over their Groveland Tap to throngs of Nook supporters, pouring 2,186 pints of St. Paul-brewed Summit beer -- that's 20-plus kegs -- and selling 476 servings of chicken wings, donating $1.50 from each sale into a fund to benefit the Nook's employees. Nearly 1,200 supporters showed up, and the total amount raised was just under $7,000.

"It was a smashing success," said Stephanie Shimp, noting that the day set an all-time sales record for the Tap. "If you look at the largest patio party we've ever done at the Longfellow, or the largest Oktoberfest, we've never surpassed 20 kegs of beer before," she said.

Shimp and her business partners know something about the devastating effects of a fire. In 1998, shortly after buying the Groveland Tap, the place was hit with an electrical fire that shut it down for six months.

"It's a gut-wrenching experience, to walk in and see melted TVs and plastic dripping down the walls; it's like something out of a Salvador Dali painting," said Shimp. "We were reminiscing how hard it was for us, and how it would have been nice if someone had lent a helping hand. That's when David said, 'What would Wayne Kostroski do?' And that's when we decided to hold the benefit."

Kostroski, co-owner of the Franklin Street Bakery and Bar Abilene, is founder of Taste of the NFL, which has raised millions of dollars for hunger relief programs nationwide. Earlier this year, he was named Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.

"Everything Wayne has done is so inspirational," said Shimp. "Doing this was the right thing to do. I mean, it's St. Paul, which is really a small town. I grew up in a small town, and this is what we do, we help each other out."

Changes for Samuelson

After a two-year tenure, Solera (900 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., www.solera-restaurant.com) chef J.P. Samuelson is moving on. But his departure isn't timed to the restaurant's recent sale.

"A great opportunity fell into my lap," he said.

So far, few details, but here's what we do know: Samuelson will be cooking Italian -- a return to his D'Amico Cucina days -- and he's not an owner.

"It's not my money, so I'm really excited about that," he said with a laugh, referring to the financial hit he took when his jP American Bistro closed in October 2008. "Everyone is always asking me, 'When are you going to open another place?' and I'm always like, 'Never.' But this opportunity is really exciting."

Location? Nothing more specific than "the metro area" and "a quick turnover of an existing space." OK. But when some real estate issues get settled, which should be soon, Samuelson will reveal more details about his new employers and their plans.

Around town

Ringo has closed, after a brief life in the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park.

Yep, that's Rustica (3220 W. Lake St., Mpls., www.rusticabakery.com), hailed as one of the nation's 10 best bread bakeries, in the January issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

RICK NELSON