Kelsey Perrigo and Dara Levine, co-founders, Cast Iron Communications

Kelsey Perrigo and Dara Levine have combined their passion for food and entrepreneurial instincts as co-founders of Cast Iron Communications.

The Minneapolis-based boutique public relations firm works only with food and beverage companies.

Perrigo, a Minnesota native returning from San Francisco, and transplanted New Yorker Levine aim to raise the profile of chefs, restaurants, breweries and others to audiences in the Twin Cities and beyond through their national contacts.

Levine studied hospitality and has experience in public relations, marketing and events. Perrigo worked in tech public relations in the Bay Area before moving to a food-focused PR agency there.

Each was intent on freelancing rather than corporate work upon arriving in the Twin Cities. That was before restaurateur Kim Bartmann introduced them. Perrigo and Levine hit it off and joined forces to launch Cast Iron in April 2016.

Cast Iron clients include Saint Dinette, Meritage, Lyn 65 Kitchen & Bar, Popol Vuh, Blackeye Roasting Co., Bad Larry's, Ale Asylum, Fig + Farro and Cardigan Donuts.

Cast Iron recently landed a deal with a Madison, Wis.,-based beer brand and hopes to expand to other Midwest markets in 2018.

In advance of February's Super Bowl, Perrigo and Levine are working with Meet Minneapolis, Convention and Visitors Association to bring New York City-based national food and drink writers here to tour the local dining scene.

"All of our restaurants are preparing for it," Perrigo said.

Q: What has been challenging for you as newcomers?

Perrigo: When we first started there was a huge education aspect. I came from San Francisco, Dara came from New York and in those bigger markets public relations is a must-have for the whole food community.

But in the Twin Cities it's still a newer concept. Everybody's finally starting to be aware of it and know they probably need to invest in it.

Q: Why should companies work with Cast Iron?

Levine: It's the fact that we have national contacts. If they're interested in national exposure we go beyond the Twin Cities.

It's our core strength in working only with food and beverage clients. We're also a one-stop shop. In addition to PR we do social media, websites, branding, design, consulting on menus and event management. We try to help with the whole package.

Q: Why does a restaurant or beverage brand need public relations?

Levine: It's making sure that their story is told in the way that they want it told. Sometimes it takes a bit to figure out what you want your message to be. It's not just getting the press it's getting the right type of press.

Todd Nelson