Chef Amy Thielen makes the best of the Midwest
If you’ve watched the Food Network lately, you might have seen Amy Thielen’s new series, “Heartland Table.” Or perhaps you’ve seen her gorgeous new cookbook, “The New Midwestern Table.”
This Minnesota native has gone from small-town America to New York City and back again, to a cabin where she once cooked for years without electricity.
Thielen visited our headquarters recently for another installment of the “Taste Talks” series, presented by The Kitchens of General Mills.
“Amy shared how beloved regional cuisine and food traditions can be relevant to a national audience,” says Heather Reid Leibo, marketing manager, Food Content, Kitchens & Publishing. “It was a unique opportunity to hear her story, inspiration and perspective on food trends and culture.”
Thielen went from working in a small café in Park Rapids, Minn., to working for some of the world’s top fine-dining chefs in New York City kitchens. In fact, it was the simple words of one of those chefs that helped shape the perspective for which she’s become well-known.
“He said, ‘Good cooking is potatoes and onions.’ This was a revelation,” Thielen says. “It’s not about the fancy stuff; it’s the attention you give to your ingredients.”
Thielen, a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award winner, moved back to Minnesota in 2007 and started thinking about creating a Midwestern cookbook. “Midwestern cuisine wasn’t getting as much publicity as it deserved,” she says. “It’s the secret heart of American cooking. A lot of what’s considered American cooking has taken place in the Midwest.”
The ingredients and flavors that inspire her are what she finds right outside her cabin: Horseradish, beans, corn, potatoes, fish, currants, squash, wild rice and more. They often come together in dishes that build community around food, such as dips, bars and booya (a stew made in large batches, often for events and fundraisers).
As she spoke, Thielen demonstrated how to make her Poppy-Seed Streusel Bars and Old-Fashioned Pounded Cheese with Walnuts and Port Syrup – and the room warmed with wonderfully nostalgic scents of home. These are among 200 heartland recipes in her new cookbook.
To learn more about Thielen, visit her blog.