Bryant-Lake Bowl hires a snowboarder-turned-chef

Bonczyk left the Twin Cities years ago to snowboard on the West Coast.
Bonczyk left the Twin Cities years ago to snowboard on the West Coast.
Eric Melzer

Bryant-Lake Bowl has a new chef, and he's bringing new boutique burgers to the menu this week. Jeremy Bonczyk comes fresh off of opening Nana, an organic restaurant in Chicago near the White Sox stadium. He said we can expect gradual changes to the BLB menu.

"I don't want to scare anyone," Bonczyk said. "I'll just add a little more flair."

It's no wonder that Bonczyk said he found a "kindred spirit" in BLB Owner Kim Bartmann, the green queen of the local restaurant scene. In Chicago, Bonczyk helped design Nana to be sustainable to the core. The founders scoured a salvage shop and found old schoolhouse chairs to refinish and reuse. The restaurant boasts in-house composting and special induction burners in the prep areas. Food products don't have any of the icky add-ons we're avoiding -- no growth hormones, no genetic modifications, no synthetic preservatives and no pesticides.

"It was a unique undertaking," Bonczyk said. "We really got our hands dirty."

Chicago was always meant to be a temporary home for Bonczyk. He followed his wife there while she attended grad school, and he seems to have made the most of his time in the Windy City. In addition to Nana, Bonczyk cooked at a small soul food restaurant called CJ's, and served as interim chef to help turn around a struggling restaurant called NXXT.

Bonczyk is originally from the Twin Cities, and he always planned to return here. His local restaurant credits include Goodfellows, Restaurant Alma. and Victor's 1959 Cafe.

Bartmann calls Bonczyk the "Prodigal Son chef." When he left home after high school, he headed to Lake Tahoe to live with friends and work in a snowboard shop. He even had an amateur sponsorship to snowboard through his employer. But the gig didn't stick. He worked at Lake Tahoe restaurants during the summer months, and he's stayed in the kitchen ever since. At his parents' suggestion, Bonczyk attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Bonczyk arrived at Bryant-Lake Bowl last April. He's been working with the outgoing chef, who is taking a break after 10 years and reportedly leaving the restaurant on good terms.

Looking forward, Bonczyk expects to gradually rework the menu and add new sandwiches and entrees. Watch for new ingredients from local farmers.

"I'm sourcing a really fantastic local cheese through Otter Creek," he said.

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