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Tim Fischer Returns to Minnesota to Lead Cosmos, Cask Cookhouse, & Releve

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Tim Fischer, a James Beard Award nominee himself, has the aura of Beard surrounding him.

The Minnesota born and raised chef ("My parents moved us up to the lake when I was 10," he says, and by "the lake" he means Brainerd) headed to the Culinary Institute of America as soon as he turned 18. Like any chef in search of inspiration, he went on to work for "the best chef that I could," which at that time was the James Beard Award-winning George Mahaffey of Aspen's The Little Knell.

See also: 10 years of Cosmos at the Graves Hotel: An interview with past and present chefs

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Fischer says his former gig was a bit of a revolving door for chefs -- with five in three years, and five James Beard Awards between them.

After a while he went on to The Inn at Little Washington where he worked for Patrick O'Connell, also -- you guessed it -- a James Beard Award winner. It was here that Fischer says he became obsessed with what he calls "micro farming," wherein the chef plants and harvests his own product.

"I love planting my own spinach, picking my own herbs." (He's already established a rooftop garden at Loews).

After assisting O'Connell on cookbooks such as Refined American Cuisine -- he calls the dish on the cover "my baby" -- he went on to travel the country in order to learn as much about regional food as possible. He even circled back to the Midwest for a couple of stints, where he briefly landed at Fargo's Hotel Donaldson, which (surprise) garnered its first and only James Beard nomination under his auspices.

It's fitting then that late this summer, Fischer received a referral from none other than the James Beard House, letting him know that the Loews Hotel Group was in search of a new chef for Cosmos.

"I said, 'Oh wow!'" (He still sounds genuinely surprised and thrilled when he says this.) "This is a great homecoming for me because my parents still live in Brainerd and I have other family here, too."

More than anything, Fischer will be happy to be back in farm country, and says he's busy training all of his staff on what it means, exactly, to be farm-to-table.

"I mean, its amazing to me when you go and cut the head off a chicken the way people will squirm!"

Fischer takes the helm of not only the Cosmos at Loews Hotel (formerly Graves 601), but also Cask Cookhouse (the Prohibition-era bar on the main floor, formerly known as Bradstreet), and Releve (think your own personal champagne mini-bar with tiny bites like oysters and plates to pair).

In the kitchen, Fischer's perspective is nothing if not a mantra for chefs of a certain (pre-Millenial) age: "I put the best quality ingredients on a plate and let the food speak for itself," he says, admonishing "younger chefs who put 40 ingredients on the plate."

As for his new menu at Cosmos, Fischer is loath to choose a favorite dish, but he will say he likes late fall salads because of the opportunity to roast parsnips and char carrots. He says he'll be getting his apples from the orchard, his lamb from Star Thrower farm, and his cheese from Roth Kase -- a Wisconsin farm to which he recently made a pilgrimage to craft his own cheese.

And finally, he says, he will not shrink from traditional Minnesota flavors.

"Wild rice and walleye are still in my playbook. You might not think wild rice-stuffed walleye when you think fine dining, but we have one and everybody loves it."

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