Landon Schoenefeld

F&W Star Chef

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Restaurants: Haute Dish (Minneapolis)

Experience: Porter & Frye, Trattoria Tosca, Sea Change (Minneapolis)

Education: Arts Institutes International (Minneapolis)

Chef Landon Schoenefeld’s Minneapolis spot, Haute Dish, exalts the beloved foodstuffs of America’s heartland—flavors familiar to the South Dakota native, who first connected with food during summer visits to his grandparents’ farm. He got his start in the kitchen at 14, washing dishes in a local steak house, The Flame, and as a fry cook at a drive-in. But it wasn’t until Schoenefeld moved to the city to attend culinary school at Art Institutes International in Minneapolis that he got serious about a career in the kitchen. He graduated in 2002 and spent the next few years working his way up the line. Schoenefeld worked with Erik Anderson at Sea Change before finally launching his highly personal project, Haute Dish, in 2010. The restaurant, named for the baked casseroles (“hot dishes”) common in Minnesota households, earned Schoenefeld a 2011 nomination as one of Food & Wine’s Peoples’ Best New Chefs.

He sat down with us to talk Tater Tots, Asian dumplings and Michel Bras.

What dish are you most famous for?
Our most famous dish at the restaurant is the Tater Tot hot dish. It’s a modern take on the classic green bean casserole, which everyone’s mom makes out here with canned green beans, Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, ground beef and a Tater Tot topping. We make our version with a porcini béchamel, braised short ribs and potato croquettes with haricots verts and a raw mushroom salad. We sold about 25,000 of them in the last 27 months—that’s about 60,000 tots.

What two dishes really tell us your story as a chef?
Our steak and eggs appetizer is one of the dishes that shows the evolution of my cooking. I love French food, and this dish starts with a pretty classical French-style beef tartare with cornichons and Dijon mustard. But then I pair it with a toad in the hole and a Bloody Mary oyster shooter made with tomato water, celery salt and smoked pepperoncini, garnished with a pickled oyster.

The second dish is one of my oldest ideas, and still one of my favorites: General Tso’s sweetbreads. We make a pretty typical Chinese fried rice and we hide some scrambled eggs in there. Then we fry the sweetbreads and toss them in a Tso sauce made with chicken stock, mirin, soy sauce, sambal and hoisin. We add a little charred broccoli, some scallion and a slice of foie gras torchon—it’s delicious and over the top.

What is one cooking technique that everyone should know?
I think that everyone should know how to make a good rice pilaf. I like all that old-school stuff. There is no such thing as foods going out of style for me. Rice pilaf is as simple as it gets, but there are definitely some techniques in there that a person should know. You have to get your vegetables prepped and sweat them in the pan. You have to throw in your rice, toast it and cook it until it is aromatic. And then you have to develop flavor—add chicken stock or a bouquet garni and then finish it with sunflower seeds or more fresh herbs.

What is your secret-weapon ingredient?
I go through three cases of celery per week, only to harvest that tiny cluster of leaves inside the heart. Those little leaves have a really distinct flavor and they add a nice freshness to just about anything.

Name one indispensable store-bought ingredient.
I tend to use canned tomatoes a lot. I’ll add them to a side dish or use them to make a sauce. Canned tomatoes really capture the essence of a seasonal item at the peak of its freshness, and you can use them any time of year.

What ingredient will people be talking about in five years?
You might start to hear people talk about things like Marmite. It’s one of the fermented foods that hasn’t gotten a lot of love when you compare it to kimchi or miso, and it adds a great vegetarian umami factor. It’s one of my tricks: If I’m making a mushroom stock and I want to keep meat out of it, I’ll add in some Marmite to give the broth some earthiness.

If you were facing an emergency, and could take only one backpack filled with supplies, what would you grab?
I would need a really nice salt and definitely olive oil. Hopefully, I’d find some magical bread that never staled to eat with a nice stinky French cheese. A lobe of foie gras couldn’t hurt, and maybe some Twinkies.

What is your favorite cookbook of all time?
I really love Michel Bras’s Essential Cuisine. It is very expensive to buy now—I think the English translation is out of print. But I just really admire his approach.

Do you have a favorite app?
The Salumi app is basically a global guide to charcuterie. You can go in there and find salumi listed in alphabetical order. It’ll tell you the country of origin, the ingredients, how it’s made. It’s a fun one to have.