If there’s one thing you learn as a line cook, it’s discipline. When Paul Berglund, executive chef of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, showed up in a suit for his first line cook interview at the acclaimed Oliveto restaurant in Oakland, CA, discipline was at the top of his resume: he was fresh from the US Navy and looking to launch a culinary career. “I was staring down at two choices,” he said: “Becoming a park ranger or a cook. I sometimes wonder what life would’ve been like in the Badlands, but am incredibly grateful fate steered me to cooking.”
We, too, are very glad Paul Berglund didn’t become a ranger, or the world wouldn’t have The Bachelor Farmer, which opened in 2011 and serves some of the best edible expressions of the Upper Midwest. When Berglund began cooking at the converted historic brick-and-timber warehouse, most dishes leaned towards traditional Nordic fare—gravlax, Swedish meatballs— which connected him with his own heritage and the roots of traditional Midwestern cooking. However, it didn’t take long for Berglund to become inspired by ingredients sourced from local farms, including the best pork and butter he’d ever tasted. Berglund uses organic products whenever possible and also cultivates herbs and vegetables on The Bachelor Farmer's rooftop farm, which was the first of its kind in Minneapolis. A devotion to fine ingredients and their growers paid off when Berglund won the award for "Best Chef: Midwest" from the James Beard Foundation in 2016.
You’ll understand how Berglund earned his accolades when you taste the fresh, wholesome dishes he’s made for Panna: maple syrup-braised beets with fresh cheese, hazelnuts, cider vinegar, or his shaved cabbage salad with Parmesan vinaigrette, chopped egg, and croutons. Even if you can’t put a finger on modern Midwestern cuisine, these dishes from Berglund’s kitchen will help you define it, deliciously.