Over the course of a month, three Minneapolis chefs will have taken over dining services at Saint John’s University.
COLLEGEVILLE, Minnesota — At the Refectory Dining Hall at Saint John’s University, a long line forms inside the building.
At the front of the line behind the counter is Chef Pedro Wolcott.
He scoops up some poblano corn risotto and tells a student while laughing, “It’s going to be good, man. It’s going to change your life.”
Wolcott is here as a celebrity guest chef. It’s part of a chef series that is bringing in three Minneapolis chefs to take over dining service at SJU.
Chef Yia Vang of Union Hmong Kitchen was the first to make an appearance in the beginning of November.
Wolcott’s North Loop restaurant, Guacaya Bistreaux, features Caribbean tapas with Louisiana influences.
“I’m from Panama, grew up in the Caribbean, then moved to Louisiana, New Orleans,” Wolcott said. “Coming from the Caribbean to New Orleans, you have that Creole, Spanish influences.”
For the students, staff and public who showed up Monday afternoon, Wolcott served grilled jerk chicken with bbq jerk glaze, poblano corn risotto and braised kale.
“I thought it was really good. It had the perfect amount of spice and the kale salad was really tasty too,” said Alea Kroeten, a sophomore at the College of Saint Benedict.
What we’re trying to do is… have our food here reflect the world around us a little bit more. We say we’re in meat and potato country but every culture has its own version of meat and potatoes,” said Tony Finnestad, executive director of culinary services and events at SJU.
Finnestad started at SJU just three months ago.
“We want to show our students that there’s more out there than what we’re seeing right around here,” he said.
Chefs prepare meals for up to 700 people.
“Everyone seems really into it also and it’s fun to get a sample of all these different creations the chefs make,” CSB Sophomore Elaina Jones said.
“I’m a champion for diversity. I’m a BIPOC, small business owner and I’m an immigrant, too. So showcasing… that part of the business is important to me,” Wolcott said. “The best way for students to learn about culture is through food so it’s great that they get to try different cuisine, different cultures and opening and broadening their horizons. So it’s really important for me to do this.”
Finnestad said they want to bring the chef series back in the spring and feature three female chefs.
Chef Gustavo Romero of Nixta is up next, serving Mexican dishes. Romero will be on campus Tues. Dec. 5 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
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