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BEST LOCAL CHEF Minneapolis 2001 - Tim McKee

These Twin Towns are not gaga over chefs. There's no breathless charting of people's comings and goings, and the people to whom the first names of local chefs--Doug, Alex, Tim, Brenda, Lucia, Patrick, Zander--have any meaning whatsoever can probably be counted on two hands. That said, it's absolutely startling to consider the fierce loyalty that has bubbled up around Tim McKee and his utterly inconvenient restaurant, Stillwater's La Belle Vie. Regulars hire limousines, visitors build their weekend around a Saturday-night table, people who'd never think of trying to keep up with the menus at big-ticket Minneapolis restaurants consider seasonal visits to La Belle Vie de rigueur. Why? There's a unifying vision and a penetrating consistency to what McKee does (ably assisted by Josh Thoma). Immersing oneself in it provides the same soul-calming fulfillment you get from sitting in a gallery of Rothko paintings--not bad, considering you also get dinner, like a starter of foie gras mousse with brioche and fig molasses, a salad of endive with roasted rabbit, pancetta, and poached egg, and an entrée such as the best bouillabaisse in town, potent broth filled with perfectly cooked seafood.

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