I just got back from a little hang with chef Stewart Woodman, and the news is that he’s back in the Twin Cities and running a kitchen.
Best known for his acclaimed restaurant Heidi’s (which closed in 2013) and as a Food & Wine Best New Chef 2006, Woodman had spent the last six months down in Rochester working for the Kahler group, and before that leading the culinary troops in the Kaskaid organization. Neither of his last two gigs gave him much time to actually cook and run a kitchen, so he’s quite excited to take on the role as Executive Chef at Lela.
Lela opened last summer, adjacent to the Sheraton Bloomington, in the former Colette spot. It’s a stunner of a space, owned in part by Paul Wischermann and Warren Beck, and came out of the gate pretty strong with steak and crudo, but faltered a bit when their opening chef left early in the game. Hiring a chef with Woodman’s pedigree would suggest that they are serious about creating something significant at the 100/494 crossing.
So when fans of Heidi’s show up, will they be able to find Woodman on the menu? “You know when I was planning the audition meal for the owners, I kept coming back to my Le Bernadin days with Eric Ripert and how we were really hyperfocused on simplicity and execution. I didn’t want to use foams and powders, I just wanted to spend seven hours making a perfect sauce. I like the idea of recentering, going back to the basics and using great ingredients, this menu is a solid place to start and build from. It’s really about taking the talent in this team and focusing on execution, consistency, and quality. You know this location has a tremendous history in the area, and we have to respect that. I want to see who’s coming in and what they’re looking for and then we’ll build this place as a neighborhood restaurant for them. It’s not there yet, but it will be.”
Well today was his first day, so I guess we can give the guy five minutes.