Thursday, May 13, 2010

Radisson gets new name, menu and chef

Ryan Zander, chef of the new JJ Astor restaurant on the 15th floor of Duluth's Radisson Hotel. [Photo by Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff]

By Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff

Today I was invited to a media preview of a new restaurant on the top of the Radisson. The restaurant was formerly named Top of the Radisson, now it is JJ Astor.

I learned about many interconnections. John Jacob Astor was a fur trader who had a post in Duluth before becoming one of the richest [ever to this date] men in America.

I also learned the new chef, Ryan Zander, is from Mandan North Dakota. He moved up here from the Twin Cities after working as the executive chef at the Italian restaurant, Trattoria Tosca in Minneapolis. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Today I had samples of a golden beet salad with arugula [I didn't even know what that was ~ it is a peppery green], and a yogurt, cucumber and ginger juice dressing.

I also had marinated tomatoes on crackers and a strawberry shortcake dessert. A Grapefruit salad was also offered as a sample.

Their new menu will include the catch of the day and locally grown vegetables. The menu will change seasonally. Ryan said, "We will serve foods that people are familiar with but with a different twist.

Ryan is happy to move to Duluth as he likes the outdoors. He looks forward to hiking, camping and driving his motorcycle around.

See my Duluth Daily Photo post about the event here.

Here is a press release about the Ryan:

Ryan Zander Hired as Executive Chef for JJ Astor, Duluth ’s Newest Signature Dining Experience

Duluth, MN (5/13/10) – Ryan Zander has been named Executive Chef for JJ Astor Restaurant, Lounge, and View, (JJ Astor) Duluth’s newest signature dining experience, according to General Manager Paul Leisner. JJ Astor is set to open to the public June 9, 2010 in the former Top of the Harbor Restaurant.

Ryan Zander joined JJ Astor after a 10-year career in the Upper Midwest­—most recently, as Executive Chef at Trattoria Tosca in Minneapolis , where he was responsible for designing an expanded menu based on local and seasonal ingredients.

Aside from being responsible for menu development and staffing, Ryan will work with local farmers, utilizing produce for ingredients in his signature dishes. “Sustainable cooking is a priority now in restaurant menus, and there is a plethora of farmer’s markets and fresh produce available in our area – why not include these as main ingredients for guests at JJ Astor?” said Ryan. Along with fresh produce, Ryan will contract with a local fisherman, ordering fresh fish that will be caught specifically for JJ Astor and included in the Fresh Catch of The Day, on the menu.

Ryan, originally from North Dakota , grew up with a mom that loved cooking using fresh ingredients in the family’s dinners. Ryan enjoyed cooking with mom and so when he found interest in his first restaurant job at 16, Ryan followed his heart and stomach and embarked on a career as chef.

When asked who inspires his design of interesting and unique menu options, Ryan answered Mario Batalli, Thomas Keller, and Eric Rupert, all renowned chefs utilizing sustainable ingredients in their cooking. “These guys use quality ingredients and keep it simple,” remarked Ryan. Ryan’s favorite food to eat? A nice crispy fish and a great salad. Ryan’s signature salad that will appear on the menu at JJ Astor is made with grapefruit, leeks, shaved fennel, arugula, blue cheese, olive oil and lemon juice.

JJ Astor Restaurant, Lounge, and View will open June 9, 2010 in the former Top of the Harbor Restaurant—Duluth’s 40-year old landmark revolving restaurant with a 360-degree view. Full of old world character and spirited tradition with a fresh modern irreverence, JJ Astor will be a lively place to share old stories, create new memories, and savor signature dishes made from sustainable local food. Located at 505 W. Superior Street , Top Floor, Duluth , Minnesota . For more information call 218-727-8981.