Now Accepting Nominations: 2009 Silver Whisk Awards

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Heavy Table’s mission is to embrace and celebrate the best food and drink in the Upper Midwest. In support of that mission, we’d like to take some time at the end of 2009 to profile and applaud some of the outstanding individuals who grow, brew, ferment, bake, serve, and otherwise facilitate the area’s great gastronomic bounty.

It would be challenging to match the breadth and number of awards given out by other media organizations around here, so we’re going to go in a different direction entirely.

We will be giving out a total of three Silver Whisk awards this year: Best New Establishment, Best Chef, and Best Purveyor.

Each award will be the result of a public nomination process, a staff-led winnowing of nominations, and a research / deliberation period before the announcement of our three winners.

Here are our criteria:

Best New Establishment

“Establishment” includes restaurants, bars, catering operations, and specialty shops.

“New” means it opened or re-opened for business within the previous 12 calendar months (i.e. back to October 2008).

“Best” is very subjective, but we’re looking for places that:

a. Filled a new and important niche in the local gastronomic landscape.
b. Redefined the way local people think about food and drink.
c. Incorporated other local businesses (purveyors, etc.) in prominent and thoughtful ways.
d. Delivered a great value for the dollar.
e. Reflected Upper Midwestern terroir.
f. Incorporated a thoughtful approach to food and drink-related ethics.

Best Chef

“Chef” includes anyone cooking for restaurants, institutions, underground dining clubs, or other publicly accessible dining environments.

“Best” is very subjective, but we’re looking for people who:

a. Thought creatively about food.
b. Delivered memorable meals that could stand up to similar experiences in large markets like New York City, San Francisco, etc.
c. Incorporated other local businesses (purveyors, etc.) in prominent and thoughtful ways.
d. Taught the public something new about food and drink.
e. Acted as an opinion or tastemaker reflective of the times.

Best Purveyor

“Purveyor” is someone making packaged or otherwise shipped food or drink for sale or resale, and can include farmers, ranchers, chocolatiers, brewers, bakers, and coffee roasters, among others.

“Best” is very subjective, but we’re looking for purveyors who:

a. Define excellence in their field when it comes to quality and flavor.
b. Successfully tried something new or risky over the past 12 months.
c. Incorporated local ingredients and cultural traditions.
d. Incorporated a thoughtful approach to food and drink-related ethics.
e. Delivered memorable food or beverages that can stand up to similar products in large markets like New York City, San Francisco, etc.
f. Incorporated a sustainable, ethical, fair trade approach (when possible) to making food.

Our Timetable

Today: Nominations open. Any Heavy Table reader can nominate any establishment, chef, or purveyor in the Upper Midwest for a Silver Whisk award by emailing or leaving a comment on this post. Supporting details are helpful but not required. Self nominations are welcome.

Oct. 30: Nominations close. The Heavy Table staff will meet to deliberate the nominations and arrive at three finalists for each of the three categories.

Nov. 9 Nov. 16: Finalists announced. Each finalist will receive a brief profile describing the reasons for their nomination. [UPDATED 10-27-09 to reflect new date]

Dec. 16: Winners announced. All three Silver Whisk winners will be announced via Twitter and Each will receive an extended profile and photos, plus an engraved, high-quality cooking whisk to commemorate the win.


  1. Moe

    Excellent idea! I’m looking forward to reading more about the finalists.

    I have to nominate J.D. Fratzke from the Strip Club. He really stands out in the local food community, and seems to be involved with every event that focuses on local food. Everything from the State Fair to Dinner on the Farm.

  2. Amy

    I’d nominate OM, which opens up a whole new world of Indian cuisine to local diners, and does away with the ubiquitous buffet. I’d agree with the two nominations before me.

  3. Tracy

    For Best Chef, I nominate Scott Pampuch. His restaurant and his food are wonderful, he champions the use of local ingredients and sources, and this summer’s Tour de Farm MN was his baby.

  4. le bender

    My wife and I just ate at the Lyndale Tap House over the weekend, and we were supremely satisfied with this new gastropub. The mushrooms and parm app made me feel like a kid eating a warm bowl of Campbell’s Ckn Noodle, familiar and inviting.

  5. V

    I will second Sharyn’s nomination of Sheela Sheela Namakkal of Miel y Leche/Cake Eater Bakery! Her cupcakes are amazing- she’s always trying new things and does a wonderful job!

  6. Pamela

    CHEF SHACK – better than most restaurants!! I am so amazed by the food they crank out of this little “shack” that would take an on-site/full kitchen for most places to pull off. Just the fact that they cater these delectable items out of a tiny space I give them Best New Establishment for their orchestration, quick service and of course the FOOD!!

  7. Miki

    I 2nd the chef shack!!! God bless them for their speedy service when the line is around the block. And their homemade condiments are worthy of being bottled up and sold in the best grocery stores. I prefer to dip my mini donuts in the best creme brulee ever made! And lastly I wash my dessert down with the most tender pulled pork sandwich ever! Thanks shack!

  8. Chris

    I fourth the nomination for Sheela from Miel y Leche. One of the criteria is “c. incorporating local ingredients or cultural traditions.” We had Sheela do the cupcake catering for an Indian wedding, and she invented a Mango Lassi cupcake (with chunks of fresh mango) as well as a Pistachio Rosewater cupcake — which both won over the Indian guests (who typically don’t usually get too interested in the usual wedding cake).

  9. Mary

    I third the nomination for Chef Shack! These girls have it going on bringing gourmet food to the streets!!!! The use of local product makes every single menu item GORGEOUS!!! It’s an amazing task that these girls are undergoing and I have a distinct feeling that it will get even BETTER! KUDOS and PROPS to Carrie and Lisa!
    Get your *Shack On*!

  10. Sam

    Best New Establishment – I know this is probably not exactly the sort of establishment you meant, but the new Seward Coop deserves this award in a pretty down year for new restaurant openings. It became far and away the best place in town to buy fresh, local, and sustainable the day it opened, and with none of the snooty Greener-Than-Thou attitude you find at the Wedge. Throw in the masterful work being done behind the in-house sausage counter, the outstanding baked goods, the array of products from local artisans, and the friendly and knowledgeable staff, and I don’t think you can find a restaurant or bar that better meets your a-through-f criteria.

    Best Chef – It’s Stewart Woodman, isn’t it? Has to be.

    Best Purveyor – Callister Farm, West Concord, MN. It takes a lot to get me to willingly pay twice the going rate per pound for a chicken. But they’ve done it.

  11. Carla

    I fourth the nomination of Chef Shack as best new establishment. For the food, for the fun, for the reinvention of street food in Minneapolis, and for the sake of their beet salad. Always reliable, always local, always flying the rainbow flag, they bring out the best of our fair cities. Reward them. They deserve it.

  12. Carla

    I nominate Tara Huie as best purveyor for Mischief Maker Chai. She has taken chai to a whole new level of quality. Mischief Maker Chai outshines and outspices any other chai on the market and it is becoming a destination drink. I’m headed to Anodyne for some right now!

  13. James Norton

    I just want to jump in here and say that these nominations have been really on point, and have been EXTREMELY helpful to our process already. Please keep them coming! Particular gratitude to those of you who have laid out a case in support of your nomination — those details will help us research and debate more thoughtfully.

  14. Sharyn

    For Best New Establishment I’m going to have to go with Helados y Paletas La Chiquita. I may be biased because they are in my neighborhood, but the quality and variety of flavors for their handmade ice creams and popsicles = mindblowing. Tamarind, horchata, mango, coconut, pineapple chili and more are all delicious.

  15. Jolene

    CHEF SHACK…for Best New Establishment. They re-invented street food in Mpls/St. Paul. Nobody does it better!!

  16. Emily Harris

    I fifth the nomination for Sheela Namakkal of Miel y Leche. She uses great ingredients and makes a stellar product. I am excited to see what she’ll come up with next!

  17. Allison

    Best New Establishment: Sea Change

    Best Chef: I second Sam’s nomination of Stewart Woodman. When I eat at Heidi’s, I feel transported to New York. Rock on, Shefzilla!

    Best Purveyor: Donnay Dairy. Amazing chevre!

  18. Kat

    Chef Shack for Best New Establishment – I love how daring they are with street food & how much people in MN have embraced it. Plus I love their enthusiasm for what they do.

    Scott Pampuch – Best Chef – Scott has done so much to support the farm to table movement in the Twin Cities with the Tour de Farm & his Dinner + Movie nights with the film Fresh. Plus the food at Corner Table is always great!

    Crispin Cider – Best Purveyor – Just because they make amazing cider!

  19. Chris

    Kudos to Chef Shack for all the nominations. Very well-deserved.

    However, I’d like to throw in a different nomination for Best New Establishment: Black Sheep Pizza.

    Black Sheep is the first (and only) coal-fired pizzeria in the state. They brought a regional flavor to the cities that previously did not exist here. I have eaten at Lombardi’s in NYC (first pizzeria in the country, where coal-fired originated) a number of times and Black Sheep stands up well to it. They use high-quality and in-house ingredients (killer meatballs) and I think are really the first place in the cities to offer an ingredient-focused pizza that rivals Punch, in a different (complementary) form factor and approach. In addition to their casual restaurant space, they provide the warehouse district with some killer take-out pizza, elevating expectations above the usual Dominoes.

  20. Jon

    Best Chef: Stewart Woodman, Heidi’s.
    Always something different, creative and fantastic with every menu change.

    Best New Establishment: Chef Shack
    Great food and friendly service. Exactly what street food should be.

  21. Jennifer

    I tenth…twelfth…twentieth?…the Chef Shack for best new establishment! Sexy street food, what could be better than that?

  22. Jennifer

    For best purveyor/baker Sheela of Miel y Leche – hands down. She has the yummiest cupcakes I’ve ever had and she always has a new flavor to try.

    Best new establishment – Chef Shack, bringing street food to a cold cold city :-)

  23. farmlife

    Umpteenth nomination for Chef Shack. These ladies work their asses off and we’re all the luckier for it! Love their establishment at Mill City Farmers Market. Quality, creativity, great sourcing and serious style.

  24. Scott @ CT

    Hands down, the best chef in Minneapolis who lives and breathes the upper midwest bounty is Mike Phillips. This guy has been cooking loacally while others were still in other cities, and while some chef’s were just starting out. If anyone remembers Chet’s Taverna, that was the best restaurant in the Twin Cities that no one ever really heard about. They just put thier head down and cooked. LOCALLY. Check out the website and see all the hard work Mike put in for one dinner for 100 ppl. This guy put in countless hours in one week, running his restaurant, and processing 6 hogs on his day off with other cooks, and pulled off the Dinner of the year. Just my opinion.

  25. Kim

    And the Best New Establishment Silver Whisk goes to… Chef Shack! It’s the freshest street food out there. The farmer and fried green tomato salads were to die for this summer!!

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