Max Thompson is in total shock.
As far as he knows, his 26-year-old sous chef Erich Scheie simply didn’t wake up on the morning of April 19. Though the young chef had only been working at Thompson's St. Paul bistro Stewart's for a few months, Scheie made a huge impact on his boss and fellow co-workers.
“It was pretty clear from the start that I lucked out,” says Thompson on hiring the Montrose native who had no interest in becoming a big-name chef. His life's goal was having a little place of his own where he could “grow some vegetables and have some animals.”
Tight with his family, Scheie would work out after service instead of knocking a few back. Thompson said the clean-living Scheie even brought his own healthy meals to work to “make sure” he was eating right.
“The only thing that he did that was dangerous was ride motorcycles,” Thompson says, and that his cool head and positive energy were a boon to the entire operation. “He changed the overall attitude of the kitchen. His energy was infectious.”
Emily Stauner is a Sysco salesperson who dealt with Scheie at both Upton 43 and Victory 44, two serious Minneapolis restaurants where he worked as a chef. She said he was “a dream to deal with -- super knowledgeable, humble, patient, and kind.”
And talented. Thompson was amazed at this ability to coax flavor out of simple things while remaining humble. “You just didn't expect the talent he had to come out of such a friendly, cute little man,” Stauner says.
Eric Neuman, executive chef of Minneapolis speakeasy Volstead’s, went to culinary school with Scheie. He remembers him as a “big friend” to everyone in school.
“He was very dedicated and loved everything about our industry. He was always someone willing to teach. If he didn’t know, he would learn with you. He always put a smile on my face.”
Erick Harcey, City Pages' 2017 pick for Best Local Chef and the owner of Victory 44 and Upton 43, jokes that Scheie was “still in diapers” when he came to work at Victory 44. Still, Harcey instantly recognized that the young man was a serious talent.
“I just remember the shock of raw talent," he says.
Scheie came to Harcey after dining at Victory and eating a life-changing dish.
“Every day he would come in with a good attitude. He would never bring in any baggage. You always knew you were going to get a smile. I don’t think there’s anyone who knew him who wouldn’t say he would do anything for you. He was just a really loyal guy. This is a pretty big bummer.”
Harcey says he’ll always remember the way Scheie treated Harcey’s kids when they visited the kitchen, sliding over milk crates for them to stand on and prep.
“He didn’t treat them like kids. He’d engage them and say, ‘Alright, guys, let’s get to work.’”
A memorial for those in the industry who knew Scheie will be held at Stewart's on Monday, May 1, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.