This is one of an occasional series of interviews with parents involved in the local food scene — a peek into the family kitchen, where the kids need to eat dinner no matter what Mom or Dad does for a day job.
For John Kraus, it all starts with good bread. For a good meal, a good day, and a lifelong appreciation of good food, Wonder Bread just isn’t going to cut it.
Kraus moved to Minneapolis from Chicago with his family earlier this year to open Patisserie 46 in Southwest Minneapolis’s Kingfield neighborhood. He says he chose the Twin Cities for the low-key, family-oriented lifestyle. And, it’s clear from how he talks about feeding his two sons, ages six and four, that “low-key” suits his family just fine.
The very first day that Patisserie 46 opened its doors, folks from the neighborhood and far beyond immediately started lining up. The pastry case at Patisserie 46 is like a jeweler’s vitrine, filled with exquisite structures of glisteningly smooth chocolate and gold foil.
But, for bread-lovers, the real wonder is on the shelf behind the fancy, sweet pastries: a handful of daily offerings of perfect, crusty loaves, from baguettes to seedy country loaves to five-pound miches (low domes well over a foot across with thick, earthy crusts and a sweet-sour, spongy interior).
It’s no wonder that Kraus says his six-year-old son, Tristan, is spoiled for old-fashioned kids’ meal standbys, like white bread and American cheese. He’s already hooked on the good stuff.
“They’ve got pretty developed taste buds for kids,” Kraus says of his sons. “We made all their food when they were babies, so they got lots of fresh produce.”
When it comes to mealtime rules for the kids, there aren’t too many. “They need to finish it, that’s kind of the gist of it,” Kraus says. “The whole point is to enjoy it, so if we force them to eat it and they don’t enjoy it, that becomes problematic. So we eat real food. Like, we always had butter at my house, so we always have butter.” But no soda, Kraus adds. That’s definitely not real food.
As a baker, it’s no surprise that Kraus recommends starting the day with carbs. For the kids, especially, a good breakfast is key, and the boys like to start their day with lightly scrambled eggs with just a little bit of salt. “And a nice piece of bread. They love the bread.”
Packed lunches for Tristan also start with bread — oven-roasted turkey on good bakery bread, a piece of fruit, a pickle. “I pretty much ask him what he wants and make it. Then he gets juice and water, occasionally chips.”
Dinner is a family affair, with everybody pitching in, but Kraus gives his wife Dawn — “almost a vegetarian” — credit for being a good cook. “This time of year, we eat a lot of stews,” Kraus says, which suits a busy family. “The nice thing about a stew is it’s ready when you’re home. Stews are the best — you get vegetables and potatoes. For the most part it’s chicken, a lot of venison.”
It’s not all free-range, local, organic, and homemade at the Kraus household, however. “I like McDonald’s every once in a while,” he says. “I still believe in being a kid.”
For his part, Tristan is already getting his hands dirty in the family business. He likes to mix batter and has tried his hands at baking dog bones. And he’s good company in a restaurant.
“Tristan will pretty much eat what’s put in front of him. He likes octopus,” Kraus says. “I’m looking forward to the day when Tristan will take me out to eat and tell me what to get.
Does Kraus double as a dog whisperer? Awesome
That would be the work of Citizen Kanine!
Sorry, but seeing photos of him working in the same clothing in which he was getting cozy with the mutts turns my stomach.
Definitely a bad choice. I love dogs as much as the next guy but please ….
I’m cool with it! Dogs have been cleaning the plates after meals in our house for 20+ years, with just a brief washing in the sink to follow. And in all that time, I’ve taken less than ten sick days. Living with dogs makes you tough!
[directed at DM and Hunka] It’s called a photo shoot. And, sadly, you missed the whole point of the article (did you read it or just look at the pictures?). The pictures are meant to show the family/personal side of Chef John.
Having studied under him at the French Pastry School in Chicago, I can tell you that the apron did not follow him back into the kitchen if he still had work to do. He always maintained an impeccably clean workspace. He instilled his values in his students as well. We were taught that, before you leave the kitchen, the apron comes off and stays behind. Again, it’s just a photo shoot.
Chef John – congratulations on Patisserie 46. I am so proud to have had you as a mentor!
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