Butcher and the Boar's Brendan "Junior" McDonald talks his dream restaurant

Each week, we'll interview two of the chefs participating in our 2013 Iron Fork competition. On November 7, these six culinary masterminds will go head to head to see who can create the most appetizing and healthful dish using a secret ingredient provided by Lunds. For more information on the event, or to purchase your tickets, click here.

Brendan McDonald is ready to compete
Brendan McDonald is ready to compete
Joy Summers

Brendan "Junior" McDonald
Sous Chef

An up-and-comer on the restaurant scene, Brendan McDonald, nicknamed Junior, will be joining Chef Jack Riebel in the ring for our upcoming battle royale, Iron Fork. It's this St. Paul native's first time stepping into the ring, but he's been training for culinary competition since his early days of being mesmerized by Emeril Lagasse.

Growing up in a food-focused family, he fondly remembers Sunday suppers, with buoyant, golden popovers fresh from the oven. Both sides of his family put a focus on the table. "I remember my dad cooking a lot growing up."

His first job in the industry was waiting tables at Ciatti's. From there, he knew he wanted to get serious about cooking and attended St. Paul College for cooking (just as Chef Jack did, just a couple of years ahead of him.) He then spent some time at the White Bear Yacht Club. "One of the line cooks said if I worked hard and did really well, I might be able to get a job downtown," says McDonald. He soon landed at The Dakota.

See also: 
Chef Daniel del Prado on '90s rock bands and seeing a shrink

Butcher and the Boar's Brendan "Junior" McDonald talks his dream restaurant

Hot Dish: Working at The Dakota, did you ever have the opportunity to see any of the musicians that played there?
Brendan McDonald: Yes! Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist for the Doors.

Did you follow Chef Jack from The Dakota when he opened Butcher and the Boar?
No, I was at Interlachen Country Club when Jack called. It was a great opportunity and well earned. He needed someone to work the grill station. One year later, I've come light years from where I was.

Have you ever attended Iron Fork?
No, I've never even seen it. Never had the chance to go. It's a little nerve-wracking. 

What kind of strategizing have you and Chef Jack been doing? He's a veteran and has a track record of doing very well at these types of things.
No... not really strategizing. We just work really, really well together. We're going to have a good time.

How do you unwind after a busy service?
I love listening to music. With the schedule of this job, it's a lot of late nights. I'll go home and just turn on music and unwind. I don't watch a lot of TV. Whenever I can, I love to get outdoors, too. I hunt and fish.

What do you cook for yourself at home?
Anything fish. I love cooking fish. Grilled, pan-seared, it's my favorite.

When the time comes for them to unveil that secret ingredient, what would you most like to see?
Pork. It's so versatile; there are so many things you can do with it. That was another dish we ate a lot at home when I was growing up. Pork all different kinds of ways. It's so good.

What would the pinnacle of your culinary career be?
Opening my own restaurant.

If you had the opportunity to open that restaurant tomorrow, what would it look like?
An old-school 1950s-style seafood restaurant. Something with a raw oyster bar. It would be low-lit with chandeliers. Louis Armstrong would play overhead.

Check out our other Iron Fork chef interviews:
Chef Patrick Weber on rock n' roll and why chefs throw things
Chef Ian Gray talks goats, Park Tavern, and his favorite meal at Lee-Ann Chin
Chef Stephanie Kochlin talks St. Paul pride, her Iron Fork competitors, and hatred of foams
Chef Daniel del Prado on '90s rock bands and seeing a shrink

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