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BEST LOCAL CHEF Minneapolis 2003 - Alexander "Zander" Dixon

A chef can be more than an exacting palate demanding things from cowering cooks. In the best instances a chef can be a creative force of good for the entire world around him. For real. Remember four years ago when Alexander "Zander" Dixon opened a narrow storefront restaurant in a rundown block of buildings on Selby Avenue in Cathedral Hill? A block of buildings that was distinguished by dying businesses and boarded-up windows? We remember it. But slowly, by the strength of his cooking, the charm of his service, and the vision of his wine list, the entire block around Dixon has been transformed. One plate of seared trout or chili-rubbed pork loin at a time, Dixon amassed enough loyalty and cash to buy the building his restaurant was in. Now, not only does Zander Café stretch through a space three times as big as its original quarters, but the restaurant he built has become the premier destination restaurant in St. Paul. Moreover, his former longtime sommelier opened the highly acclaimed wine shop Solo Vino next door. And Dixon even took over a café across the street, Z's, where he dazzles the world with the simple joys of eggs Benedict and wine-cooked pot roast. Now Dixon's block of Selby is a St. Paul showcase of good taste and fine living, and we are all far the richer. Who knew that an exacting palate and a boundless spirit could do as much for a city as a thousand civic planning commissions?

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