Derik Moran and Kristin Tyborski of Dakota Jazz Club: Chef Chat, Part 1
It's as much a human interest story as it is a culinary tale: After a lengthy process to hire an executive chef, Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant selected both Derik Moran and Kristin Tyborksi to share the position. Prior to working at Dakota, Moran spent three years at Nick and Eddie and also worked at Porter & Frye (where he and Tyborksi met), as well as Trattoria Tosca. Tyborksi worked at Café Northeast on Mill City Café, Solera, Sea Change, and Porter & Frye.The Hot Dish met with both chefs to discuss the two-chef arrangement, as well as the benefits and challenges of cooking for an audience consisting primarily of music lovers rather than diners.
How did you start working at the Dakota?
Moran: A series of long interviews for both of us. The hiring process was over a month long, and it came down to us getting hired. That's how we started here.
Tyborksi: There were a lot of candidates.
Were they looking for just one person or for two?
Tyborksi: They initially were just looking for one person, and then through the process decided they liked two of us.
You two knew each other before, but did you know you were both applying?
Tyborksi: We didn't know that, actually, but we found out at the end. Kind of a fun surprise.
How is working at the Dakota than other places you've worked in the past?
Tyborksi: Well, I mean it's a music venue, which is even different than Nick and Eddie's, I think.
Moran: Right, you know, people aren't coming here necessarily to dine. They're coming here for the music and dining while they're here, so it's much different than feeding diners. You're feeding music lovers, and it's very unpredictable in a lot of ways.
Tyborksi: Depending on the artist that comes in, that affects what we're selling. So that's kind of fun. Every day is different. Some days we're selling entrees and some days we're selling burgers.
Moran: The demographics have a lot to do with it.
Tyborksi: But mostly it's just different because it's a big space and we're always busy. It's definitely exciting.
Have you ever gotten the demographics completely wrong?
Tyborksi: Well, no matter what, we're set up to feed anybody that comes walking in the door, so it's never an issue of being unprepared, but we're still learning.
How do you go about researching that?
Tyborksi: A lot of these artists we've never heard of. To us we don't really know what to gauge it on. We're learning. You can research their music but you have no idea who's coming in to watch their show.
Moran: And that would change in any city.
Tyborksi: People who have worked here longer are a good resource. They can pretty much tell us, but that can change, too!
Can you describe some of the changes you've made to the menu?
Tyborksi: We changed the whole thing. Conceptually, we changed quite a bit. Before it was entrees and first courses and a now-and-later menu that was bar-ish. Now we have the same format, but we added another column that's kind of a bridge between first courses and entrees with the idea that if you didn't want to have an entrée you could have a couple second courses.
Moran: We've added essentially smaller plates, not to be confused with a small-plate restaurant, which is not what we're trying to do, but we've added one more dynamic to a traditional menu. So we have small, medium, large...
Tyborksi: Something for everybody is what we're trying to accomplish. So we changed all those items on the menu, and now we're looking at another seasonal change coming up, so we are keeping things fresh.
Moran: We try to stay as sustainable as possible and as local as possible. In Minnesota that can be tough.
How did you decide how to change the menu?
Moran: Our first month or month and a half here was a lot of observation. We were entirely too busy with events, parties, banquets to think of a menu change right off the bat. I mean, we wanted to get our feet wet. Two months in, we did a complete overhaul. We changed all systems electronically and our menus, changed over 44 items in two days.
Tyborksi: It was busy. It was a lot of work, but we had fun.
So what's your favorite thing on the menu?
Tyborksi: There are a few things I like a lot for different reasons. Off the top of my head, I really like our skate dish. That was something that Derik put together that I think is beautiful, and it tastes good. It's a nice merge of flavors.
Moran: Some of the things we love the most are probably the items that sell the least. They were good, fun ideas to us, they taste great, but again we're dealing with completely different demographics that don't always quite understand food.
Tyborksi: We like everything, I think.
Moran: It was all adjusted and came together the way we wanted it. I's a compilation of all of our thoughts, so everything on the menu is great, but I'd say the bass is very classical and it's beautiful. Based on what we do for a living, the level of happiness that it brings to people, the amount that we sell and the clean beauty of it, is probably in my top.
Tell me about your foodie nights.
Tyborksi: Foodie nights are just a great idea of the Dakota to bring in foodies and just people who are here to dine. Like Derik was saying, a lot of our business is driven by music, which is great. We're the Dakota.
Moran: On an average night here someone has to buy a $20, $30, $40 ticket just to get in the door. And then they also have to pay to eat in addition to paying for the $60 tickets. On a foodie night, it's local music, local bands that the city's very familiar with, and it's only $5 to get in, so it makes it very accessible for people who just want to stop in and eat, and if you spend more than $20, your cover charge is waived.
Tyborksi: And it's just a fabulous idea because everyone knows that the Dakota is a music place, so for people who aren't looking to go to a show but want to dine, it kind of eliminates that music barrier where they're like, I don't know if I can just come in, so it's a good accessible way for people to just come in.
We'll return tomorrow with a bit more of our chat with Derik Moran and Kristin Tyborski.
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