Kristine M. Kierzek
Baking bread is Jamie Malone’s constant reminder of her father and the influence he will always have on her cuisine.
He died of cancer when Malone was 17 and his passion for cooking and dining inspired her career.
She opened the Grand Cafe in Minneapolis and was named a semi-finalist of the James Beard Award. When the restaurant closed last year, Malone started creating Wkndr, offering high quality meal sets for brunch and dinner. This month she opened the Paris Dining Club, which offers dinners in Minneapolis. A physical space for dinner parties and events with tickets will open later this year.
In honor of her father, Malone teamed up with the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation’s Celebrity Chef & Wine Dinner at the Wisconsin Club on November 6th. Luke Zahm, head chef / owner of Driftless Cafe and host of Wisconsin Foodie, will be the evening. Malone will create a five-course meal to raise funds for cancer research and treatment. In addition, local chefs and restaurants will attend a tasting on November 5th. Tickets are still available, visit www.lombardifoundation.org.
Question: What’s the latest in your restaurant and business?
Answer: I opened Grand Cafe in 2017. … We closed the physical location of Grand Cafe, but my team is still together. We have found a lot of success with meal sets. We also learned that we love to do them. We make two different brands of meal sets, Wkndr, a weekend menu with a changing theme. It can be a person, a place, or a type of food. Shellfish was our first issue, and that’s why we went to Cape Cod and did photo shoots and created loads of inspiration around shellfish and a mini magazine, then came home and created these boxes …
The other is the Paris Dining Club, which was released this month. It’s dinner, classic grand cafe style food, old fashioned French food. They are things that you can’t do at home if you don’t have a lot of time and solid skills. We also lend service clothing that is in front of your door. Lastly, we have a brand new physical space downtown, our creative space, an artist loft with a large room for dinner. We have a table with 30 seats.
Q: How did you get into cooking?
A: My father was an economist. He always wanted to be a chef, so he came home from work and cooked those elaborate meals. We spent the weekend baking bread or doing long projects. … For me, restaurants are synonymous with family time. I started working in restaurants when I was 16. I was 22 when I decided to go to cooking school. The first kitchen I really worked as a cook in was so in love. That’s exactly what I want to do.
Q: What is your current focus or approach to cooking?
A: French food has always been the food I wanted to cook. It’s what I always love deeply. I can open a French cookbook and become so obsessed with it. There is something about the French way of honoring things and taxonomic about it.
Q: Do you have a collection of cookbooks? Can you tell us one thing you would never part with?
A: I have a collection. The top is actually Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking”. It’s so basic.
Q: How did a Minneapolis chef come to the Lombardi dinner in Wisconsin?
A: I was contacted by email a few years ago. I checked what it was about. Our criteria for where we want to donate must be personal to someone on the team. For me, of course, that’s super personal. I lost my father to cancer 20 years ago.
Q: What is your approach to the menu for this dinner?
A: Fall is my favorite time of year to cook food and the entire menu is geared towards that. There’s a whole lot of classic inspiration out there, a French consomme inspired by Paul Bocuse. Short ribs au poivre as a main course. The spinach salad on the menu was a Grand Cafe classic featured in Food and Wine (magazine).
Q: Have you been to Milwaukee? Do you have any things you want to see here?
A: Milwaukee is one of my favorite food cities and a good cocktail city. We’re so close and I work with the Bittercube boys. My whole crew is coming.
Q: You travel and take photos for your meal packages, which sounds different from many meal packages. What was your approach to creating this?
A: I spend most of my time as an entrepreneur doing things that are not my passion and that is part of the package, but at the end of the day, what I enjoy is too thin and then what makes others happy is too thin Margin. How can we work to create deeper experiences for our guests? They are our guests even though we are not in a restaurant. Can we get this (meal set) working if we’re really following the part that is exciting us right now?
Q: What are the price points for the meal sets?
A: The kit economy works really well, our overhead is just different. … We create content, we don’t pay for space and a full restaurant team. … We cut out a lot. You can get brunch for two for $ 75, but it’s like crab and lobster, very luxurious. You can have brunch only, dinner only, or hors d’oeuvres only. Dinner serves four and is $ 150. That is very accessible in my opinion. The entire set costs $ 275 and will last for your entire weekend or can be turned into a dinner party. It’s not cheap at all, but it’s solid when compared to a grocery store and restaurant on a weekend.
Q: What’s your best kitchen tip?
A: It’s just mise en place. It is so important to have everything ready and have the right tools. I love to cook, but if you’re in a cabin and don’t have the right tools, even your favorite thing somehow won’t be fun.
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When you go
Celebrity Chef & Wine Dinner, a fundraiser for the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.
Tickets: $ 300 each OR $ 2,400 for an eight person table
For reservations: www.lombardifoundation.org.