Don Saunders of In Season: Chef Chat, part 3

Chef Don Saunders of In Season restaurant

Chef Don Saunders of In Season restaurant

In the final part of our interview with Don Saunders, chef of the new In Season restaurant, he shares the recipe for his favorite dish from the restaurant's opening menu. He also reveals his idea for a cooking show. "Believe me," Saunders says, "I would sell out in a heartbeat if someone approached me." For now, though, you can see Saunders cooking right here in south Minneapolis (and learn more about him in parts 1 and 2 of our interview).


Do you pay attention to restaurant reviews?

Absolutely. It certainly can be constructive. I'll just take, whether it's customers saying something or a reviewer saying something, I would just constructively look at anything negative or semi-negative and say, is that something we meant to do and they're just taking it wrong and we're fine with leaving it that way, or is it something that, yeah, they had a point, and we didn't set out to do that, so we need to fix that.

I don't think the customer or the reviewer is always right. You have your vision in the beginning, and they didn't see, they're commenting on the artwork, how horrible it is, and your whole concept is based around how cool that artwork is. I wouldn't change that. That's just their taste.

If someone said our service was too formal here, and my goal was for it to be professional but not formal, then I would take that into consideration. Let's change it up, let's be a little more relaxed, let's be a little more casual.

What is your favorite dish to cook at home?

I really don't like to cook for myself when I get home. You work six nights and then either eat out or take out or [have] sandwiches or something. If you really want to know what I cook on Mondays when I get home - what I had this week was grilled cheese with sliced turkey.

If you just ask me what I'm excited about eating and cooking right now? This time of year when the weather gets cold I love braising things. Right now on the menu we have a braised beef cheek, which is really similar to a short rib in texture and flavor.

What is your favorite knife or kitchen tool?

My favorite kitchen tool is definitely my sauce spoon. I like the whole French style of service and cooking, which is using spoons over tongs. Using spoons for your vegetables, using spoons even to get the meat out of the pan, saucing the pan. It's kind of how I learned at Chez Bruce [in London] and at Vincent [in Minneapolis]. It's kind of a French style rather than the American style where you use tongs for everything. I found a spoon that I love, even though it sounds weird that I'm using the term "love" for a spoon.

What are some of your favorite local take-out restaurants?

My wife and I live in Stillwater and we have a three-year-old, so we went through the whole go to Applebee's phase when we were with him. We can take Henry to Smalley's in Stillwater. A good friend of mine is the chef-owner. They're like a Caribbean barbeque thing.

When we get a night off, my wife and I, we love sushi. If we're going to have a date night, that's kind of the default. I like Sushi Tango or Fuji Ya.

If you could put any dish on your menu, what would it be?

I'll give you one for summer that we were talking about. I really want to do - we were talking about summer ingredients the other day with the wait staff- I really want to try seared foie gras with strawberry patch strawberries. We were talking about how strawberries in the grocery store have nothing on strawberry patch strawberries.

That's the fun thing about this concept is that you're constantly thinking about the next season. We already have an idea what to do - we're going to get those whole Amish chicken in and we're not going to use the thigh and the leg. We'll freeze them. We have an idea to use those braised and shredded with morel mushrooms in the springtime. It's fun - me and my sous chef are always like, "What's next?"

That concludes our chat with Don Saunders, but he was kind enough to share a recipe from his current menu for our readers:

Fall-style Lantern Bay Scallop Ceviche

Serves 6

Ingredients 1 lb. Lantern bay scallops (available at Coastal Seafoods) 1/2 c. Asian pear, diced 1/2 c. fresh pineapple, diced 1/4 c. pomegranate seeds 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Vinaigrette 1 shallot, diced fine Juice of 3 limes Juice of 1 lemon 1 tsp. coriander 1 tsp. cumin 1 tsp. cayenne pepper 1/2 tsp salt 2 tbsp. chili oil 2 tbsp. olive oil Sea salt


For the Vinaigrette: Place first seven ingredients in a mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in both oils.

To Finish: Combine first five ingredients. Add vinaigrette to coat, mix well and refrigerate for up to one hour. Season to taste with sea salt. Serve with something crispy like tortilla chips or fried bric dough.

In Season 5416 Penn Ave Minneapolis, MN 55419 612-926-0105