Behind the line with Heartland’s dynamic chef duo

Behind the line with Heartland’s dynamic chef duo

It’s hot in the kitchen at Heartland Restaurant. Really hot. The ovens are going at 400°, the grill is smoking and spitting, saute pans are steaming. There’s not much room either, maybe four feet of work space between the line and that hot oven. This is home for a chef. Heartland is known for its strict farm-to-table policy, working with small farmers from within a 200 mile radius of the Twin Cities, and for bringing fine dining to a city virtually devoid of it back when the restaurant opened in 2002. Their move in 2010 from the residential Mac-Groveland neighborhood to a large, elegant in space in Lowertown was both a testament to the city’s emerging food culture and Lowertown as a destination. Doors open at 4PM, but the the kitchen staff usually get in around 11 or noon to prep and get ready for dinner service. Behind the line, Amy Buckmeier and Natalie Allesee run the show. A dynamic duo, you might say, like Batman and Robin; except that they’re both Batman, and they’re both Robin, (and sometimes the Joker) depending on the situation. The chefs run one of the finest kitchens in Minnesota, splitting cooking, expediting, and leading  duties to make sure those plates come out looking nothing less than perfect. It’s Lenny Russo’s kitchen, to be sure, but night in and night out it’s Amy and Nat that are producing your food, with their team of Chas Grant, Kyle Hodgen, and Jenny Rue behind them. Or to the right of them. Or passing on the left. It’s certainly a physically demanding job, a job full of cuts and burns...