We’re familiar with what local chefs serve in their restaurants. What about the food choices they make at home? This series offers a glimpse into what chefs are eating when they step outside their own establishment.
Chef Rick Kimmes has been with the Oceanaire for 11 years. Prior to his time there he worked as a sous chef for Pronto (formerly occupying the space that is now Oceanaire), as well as several country clubs in Minnesota, New York, and Connecticut. He studied Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management at University of Wisconsin-Stout, and attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York. He was born and raised in Red Wing, MN. Kimmes is married and has two boys, ages five and seven.
On seafood at home:
I don’t have many fond memories of seafood as a kid growing up. When I was young, I’d go fishing with my grandpa at his cabin in Wisconsin. We’d get pan fish, perch, crappies, and sunfish. He would keep everything and cook it all. I remember there being lots of bones. As a kid, the ratio of tartar sauce to fish was two to one. I’d drown it all in sauce. I grew up Catholic and dreaded Fridays, because it meant fish.
My wife’s been on me about cooking more seafood at home. We walked Nokomis the other day, and she turned to me and said, “You work at a seafood restaurant, and we don’t eat it!” I believe if I ate more seafood growing up, I would be cooking it more at home. I grew up during the late ’70s / early ‘80s and both my parents worked. Our dinners were always meat and potatoes. Sometimes we had a salad, but that meant iceberg lettuce with cheddar cheese and maybe some bacon bits. Vegetables were out of the can or frozen.
Now when I’m at home we’re cooking a variety of dishes. But I usually stick to comfort foods. I’ll work off a craving or I’ll get inspired by a recipe. Sometimes I’m inspired by a staff meal (we feed lunch to our restaurant and corporate staff, usually comfort foods). I was just craving pozole – pork stew in a rich broth with onions, bay leaf, and hominy. Oh man, it’s so good. We almost finished a whole pot. The recipe comes from Norma, a prep cook who has been with me for a long time. It’s all about the accompaniments: sliced radishes, jalapenos, cilantro, oregano, and chili powder. We also make a great seafood stew at the restaurant with our leftovers, big chunks of seafood and potato in a tomato broth. It’s kind of spicy. I love it.
On the evolution of his perspective on dining:
I’m not on the line as much as I used to be. At night during service I’m either on the floor or the front side of the line. During the day I’m working numbers or working on menus. Once a week I might get on the line for an hour to make a sauce or work with the team on something. When I was on the line, I experimented with a lot more flavors at home. But now, since I’m seeing a different side of things at the restaurant, I see a different side when I’m outside of the restaurant too.
Ten years ago I was solely focused on the food. I used to drive my wife nuts, because when we’d come home from a restaurant I’d say, “I can’t believe they did this or that.” I would turn my dining experiences into a negative situation. During a conversation with Terry Ryan, our CEO, I received some words of advice. He told me what I should be focusing on is what I like, what things they’re doing well. So now I look for positives, not negatives. I can say, “Hey, they walked us to the bathroom instead of pointing to it. They met us with hot towels when we sat down. That was really cool.” I try to incorporate those positives into our restaurant. Maybe as a chef, as you grow in your career, you begin to look at different things. Now I pay a lot of attention to hospitality. Of course I still look at the food. I can’t help it.
On adding kids to the mix:
Because of the boys, I usually cook simple foods. I should say that I cook what I want to cook, but keep the kids in mind. For example, if I’m making a curry I might back off on the spice. But as the two of them get older, they’re loving spice more and more. My oldest will eat anything. I have to be careful because he’ll watch me and follow what I do. If I’m grabbing the Tabasco, he’ll do it too. He’s always been adventurous. When he was two years old he ordered a Caesar salad and inhaled the anchovies on top. My youngest will try most anything, but he doesn’t always like it. We try to expose the two of them to as many foods as we can. I’m not going to not make a dish because I don’t think they’d like it. They both love sushi. In fact, my younger son’s favorite kind is octopus. We wouldn’t know that if we didn’t encourage them to try it.
On New Year’s resolutions:
It’s a family goal this year to concentrate more on where our food is coming from. We’ve always paid attention to it, but I want to make it more of a priority. I’m in the middle of reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma right now and my wife bought me the film Food, Inc. The info from both is shocking, frustrating, and scary. I knew a lot of this was out there. Now I ask myself, “What can I do to make what we eat better?” I have two boys in the public school system. We pack a lunch, but I’ve seen what they serve at school. Everything is reheated in plastic. I credit my wife with paying attention to food labels and keeping us informed. The boys help her out, and it’s cute. They’ve been at the grocery store, reading labels, and the two of them would find an ingredient like high fructose corn syrup and say, “I can’t have this!” You need to be willing to pay more for hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range foods. It’s a commitment not everyone can afford. That’s unfortunate.
I’ve also just started experimenting with a wheat-free diet. One day I came home from work and felt sluggish. So I fasted for a few days, drank lots of water and seafood broth. I eliminated wheat for the next three days and felt so much better. Then I had a piece of pizza. It’s been tough and it’s too early to see what will happen, but when I stick to it I feel so much better. Part of me likes it, but part of me loves a good Italian sandwich or fish and chips. We have a lot of people who come in to the restaurant with a wheat-free diet. I’m trying to work on our menu to accommodate those needs. For example, our cheesecake has 21 pounds of cream cheese and 6 ounces of flour. I’m working to eliminate the flour.
1300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
OWNER / CHEF: Steve Uhl / Rick Kimmes
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $20-$50 (Larger shellfish entrees can sometimes exceed $50)