Chef Landon Schoenefeld talks about being Iron Fork overlord and his love of Kewpie mayo

Chef Landon Schoenefeld and his sous chefs, 2012 Iron Fork Champions
Chef Landon Schoenefeld and his sous chefs, 2012 Iron Fork Champions
Sasha Landskov

Landon Schoenefeld
Head Chef
Haute Dish

Landon Schoenefeld, nicknamed "Colonel Mustard" for a 2007 incident in which he sprayed mustard on a bartender who asked for a salad with dressing on the side, has positioned himself at the heart of the Twin Cities dining scene with his creative takes on comfort food classics. No one prepares sweetbreads like this guy, and his take on the classic tater tot hot dish -- at his restaurant, Haute Dish -- became an instant classic.

A South Dakotan by birth, Schoenefeld moved to the Twin Cities to pursue his culinary dreams. In the time since, he's been recognized by Food and Wine magazine and MSN, been named one of the hottest chefs under 30, and has won a few nods from this publication in our annual Best Of issue. His temper might not be as volcanic as it was once was, but he's still a fierce competitor. To paraphrase, he's coming to kick some ass at this year's Iron Fork. 

He took time out of his busy day to chat with us, opened his refrigerator door and stared into its depths, and waxed poetic about his condiments, his crazy youth, and how he makes it all look so easy.

See also:
Butcher and the Boar's Brendan "Junior" McDonald talks his dream restaurant
Chef Landon Schoenefeld talks about being Iron Fork overlord and his love of Kewpie mayo

Hot Dish: What was the first dish you learned to cook as a kid?

Landon Schoenefeld: Egg in a frame. You know, like you'll see on a steak? I got it from a kid's cookbook that my mom got me. It's a piece of toast with a hole cut into it and then you fry an egg in there.

Now, we've heard that called either a Toad in a Hole or One Eyed Jack, but "Egg in a Frame?"
I know. We call it Toad in a Hole on the brunch menu at the restaurant. Maybe that's a Minnesota thing?

We don't follow your strange South Dakotan ways. When did you know that you wanted to be a chef?
When I realized my grades weren't good enough for college. I've always cooked. It was the first job that I'd ever had. I realized that I was 20 and already doing what I wanted to do. So I decided to move here in 2000, go to culinary school [at the Arts Institute], and get to the next level. Eventually, I got there.

It seems that since early in your career you've gotten a lot of attention from food media. Food writers love to write about you and the food you create. Did it feel that way?
I think I first got written up when I was at Bulldog [Northeast]. I had already been cooking for four or five years. But it did kind of feel that way. I don't read all of it or pay as much attention to it as I used to.

Haute Dish was at the forefront of the revitalization of the North Loop neighborhood. What has it been like to watch the neighborhood around you change?
It's great. As a business owner, especially, it's great to be a part of it. We were at the edge for years -- it still has its moments. But now there are just people everywhere. Whole Foods is blocks away. Condos are just going up everywhere. It couldn't be better.

When Haute Dish was first conceived -- it's been a five-year process. We at first thought it would be a breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, super neighborhoody spot. When we found this spot we ended up deciding to change those plans a little bit. With this location, we had more of an edge. And now, it fits us perfectly.

Imagine the contents of your home refrigerator as the pantry at Iron Fork. What could you create with what's inside?
Well, I'm actually at home right now and looking in my refrigerator. I have butter, cheddar cheese, yogurt, eggs, all kinds of pickles, leftovers from Peninsula, some salad cream that I probably should have thrown away a couple of weeks ago... I defy that old adage about chefs not cooking at home. I cook at home all the time.

You should know this question was inspired by a conversation we had with your girlfriend and her allegation that there wasn't much in your fridge beyond the Kewpie mayonnaise.
Ah, I can't get enough of that stuff. I'm out. I've been out for too long.

2012's winning dish: duck breast with quick kimchee
2012's winning dish: duck breast with quick kimchee
Sasha Landskov

Last year most of the other chefs were working themselves up into a froth; many were actually sweating. How were you the picture of zen stability?
You know, we'd just wrapped up restaurant week. We were outside of the kitchen -- me and my sous chef who will be competing with me again this year. That wasn't work, it was just cooking for fun.

What advice do you have for some of your competitors who haven't competed in Iron Fork before?
Bring an extension cord. Anything that will help you show off your food, your gadgets, because there really is nothing there. You have like a little burner and that's it. Bring a stick blender. And just relax.

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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