World Chefs: Thielen revamps Midwestern staples in first book

Wed Feb 19, 2014 5:14am EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Amy Thielen offers her updated twists on beef pot roast, fried smelt and other classic dishes from her childhood in her first cookbook "The New Midwestern Table."

The 39-year-old chef reconnected with her fondness for the region's cuisine after she and her family moved back to Minnesota, where she was born, several years ago. She had spent seven years in New York as a chef at the fine-dining restaurants of Michelin-star chefs David Bouley, Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Thielen spoke to Reuters about the uniqueness of U.S. Midwestern cooking and her mother's grease eggs.

Q: What motivated you to write this book?

A: When I had first moved back home to Minnesota right after college in 1997 I had always thought it would be cool to do a Midwestern cookbook. I had thought it was a bit under-represented and at that time I was obsessed with old cookbooks, church community cookbooks, anything, not just the Midwest but from rural experiences basically across the U.S.

I was finding a lot of common experiences in the rural experience and old recipes. Then I moved to New York and was completely immersed in the fine-dining scene and I worked in the kitchens of fine dining for seven years. Then coming home, everything came full circle. Then I knew I wanted to write the book, which would have been my take on what Midwestern food might have been, what it is now and what it could be in the future.

Q: Why do you think the Midwest is under-represented in our discussions about regional American cuisines?

A: It's really nobody's fault. It's not that the media hasn't looked at it. I think as a nation we are just starting to look at our regional cuisines. They are just starting to gel. I also think naturally Midwesterners are not the kind of people who seek out the spotlight. We have been reticent about things and that's just who we are.   Continued...