Best Chef - 2009
Tim McKee, La Belle Vie
It's been a big year for Tim McKee. The executive chef of La Belle Vie and Solera opened not one but two new eateries—Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque and Barrio (which, by the way, is this year's Best New Restaurant). McKee proved his prowess by creating a French-Mediterranean fine-dining experience that set the bar for special-occasion meals in these parts. Next, he showed his fun-loving side with splashy Spanish tapas, authentic pimento-wood smoked Jamaican barbecue, and Latin street food. Oh, and did we mention that he's in the process of taking over the restaurant at the Guthrie and turning it into a sustainable seafood eatery? Still, McKee's most influential role may not be that of restaurant-maker but of mentor, as his kitchens have helped mold the next generation of top-notch talent. Several of our favorite up-and-coming young chefs—those at Cafe Maude, Saffron, Be'Wiched, and Grand Cafe, among others—cut their teeth at La Belle Vie and Solera. What Shattuck-St. Mary's is to the NHL, McKee is to the Twin Cities dining scene. A real feeder school, indeed.