Black Chef Offers Food for Thought in Rural Minnesota Community

Black Chef Offers Food for Thought in Rural Minnesota Community

Credit: Chad Nelson, KARE
Mateo Mackbee, owner and chef at Krewe restaurant in St. Joseph, Minnesota

Kare11: ST JOSEPH, Minn. — St. Joseph is a town of towering steeples and 6,500, mostly, white people.

Mateo Mackbee is a notable exception.

“This is the barbequed shrimp,” Mateo says as he works the grill at Krewe, the New Orleans style restaurant he opened last May with his girlfriend Erin Lucas.

“Our mission is to make this be successful,” Mateo says. “Black entrepreneur in an absolutely almost all white rural town.”

While cooking at Edina’s former Mozza Mia restaurant, he met Erin who was working as a server.

She now runs Flour & Flower, the bakery she opened in a small, historic, wood frame building just behind Krewe.

“Carbs are my love language,” the Orono native says.

The couple was lured to St. Joseph by the owner of the building in which they opened their restaurant and now live on the second floor.


Credit: Chad Nelson, KARE
Erin Lucas opened Flour & Flower bakery in St. Joseph, Minnesota

On a recent Friday, Erin frosted a lemon cake, while a few yards away, across the alley, Mateo cut onions to caramelize for smothered catfish and a variety other Cajun and Creole dishes featured on the Krewe menu.

“Some of these are family recipes passed down from my grandfather,” Mateo says. “In Louisiana cooking, they call it the holy trinity: green bell pepper, white or yellow onion and celery.”

After years of restaurant experience, Mateo and Erin knew the food would be the easy part of their move from the city to rural Minnesota.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” says Erin, who is white but worries about Mateo. “It was scary.”

Two years before moving to St. Joseph, the couple started another restaurant in, even smaller, New London.

“We had people who wouldn’t come into the restaurant in New London because I was an owner there,” Mateo confides.

The couple made friends, but there was also no mistaking the “snarky” comments occasionally directed their way at the bowling alley.

Erin says Mateo more easily brushed such things aside. “He would have to hold me back and not the other way around,” she says.

Mateo concedes, “Those things sting a little bit.”


Credit: Chad Nelson, KARE
Chef Mateo Mackbee in the kitchen at Krewe restaurant in St. Joseph, Minnesota

Still, the experience taught the restaurateurs they could thrive outside the city.

Mateo took advantage of the rural setting to realize a dream: growing his own ingredients on a farm and busing in school children to learn about the origins of their food.

But nothing could have prepared Mateo and Erin for what happened four days before the opening of their St. Joseph restaurant, when George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, followed by rioting, arson fires and looting in neighborhoods familiar to Erin and Mateo back home.

“Our first instinct was to try to rush to the city to try to find ways we could help,” Mateo says.


Credit: Chad Nelson, KARE
Mateo Mackbee and Erin Lucas opened Krewe New Orleans style restaurant in St. Joseph, Minnesota in four days after the death of George Floyd.

Instead, Mateo and Erin asked for help from their new community, hosting a food drive for hard hit neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“The response was insane,” Erin says. “We had lines circling the building. We were brand new to the area. It was just shock and joy of people wanting to help.”

Erin and Mateo delivered two trailers of food to the Twin Cities, while feeling newly assured they had chosen the right community in which to open their new restaurant.

“It showed that the compassion we feel collectively was also here in the community,” Mateo says.

Those feelings have only been strengthened as their customer base has grown.

“The food is phenomenal,” says Bob Johnson, who drove from St. Cloud for lunch at Krewe with his family.

The Johnsons have paid at least half-a-dozen visits as they work their way through Mateo and Erin’s menu.

“I hope they stay,” Bob says.


Credit: Chad Nelson, KARE
Erin Lucas displays a card given to her by her boyfriend Mateo Mackbee upon the opening of their restaurant and bakery

Business has been brisk at the bakery too, with more than 100 cake and pie orders filled for Easter.

“I think it’s the most perfect fit for what we’re trying to accomplish,” Erin says.

What they’re trying to accomplish played out in the Krewe dining room on a recent Friday, when Jesse Ross, who is Black, drove with his wife from Minneapolis to have lunch at Krewe.

Jesse, an old friend of Mateo’s, says he’s used to keeping his guard up when he drives into rural Minnesota. “I don’t know where I’m going, if I’m welcome, who I’m going to run into and being able to walk into a place like this – this is home,” he says.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this dream of mine, this restaurant, would ever be in a community this small, this white, this Catholic, this Lutheran,” Mateo laughs. “But these people told us they wanted this, so that’s why we’re here.”


 Boyd Huppert


ICYMI – Finding Zug Zug: Sculpture Hidden in Park Brings Joy and Wonder to Minneapolis Residents!

ICYMI – Finding Zug Zug: Sculpture Hidden in Park Brings Joy and Wonder to Minneapolis Residents!

The artist behind the sculpture says he did it so we can all have something positive to talk about in 2021.


Kare11: Spend enough time out in nature and you just might stumble onto something incredulous.

Like a caveman frozen in time, standing by a trail at Theo Wirth.

“Every person we’ve talked to, they said they came to the park to specifically find this piece,” artist Zach Schumack said.

“It’s Wirth park, which is our neighborhood park, and I was like we gotta find it,” Genevieve Johnson said. “He was out there for hours. I was tracking to find him on my phone.”

After searching for three days, Johnson and her husband said they were happy to have finally come across a seemingly spontaneous piece of art.

Schumack, who is one of the artists who worked on the piece said he and his art collective, Leonic, built Zug Zug the caveman as a commissioned piece. Originally it was for an ad agency–Hunt Adkins and Agency 222.

When they were done with him, Schumack said he couldn’t just let him sit in his garage.

Plus, the timing just seemed right to release Zug Zug into the world.

“Every time we turned on the TV and looked at our cellphone, it was really only one story going on, and it just seemed a little divisive and negative,” Schumack said. “We decided to use this piece to give people something else to talk about, and also something to explore and look at, besides what’s going on with our TVs and phones.”

So with the blessing of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation board, Schumack lugged Zug Zug to Theo Wirth.

The intended effect definitely took place. More people came to see Zug Zug than Schumack and the team ever could have imagined. People took photos. Touched the sculpture to see if Zug Zug was sitting in real ice. All of it, instilling a sense of wonder. Schumack said that’s his favorite part, especially when kids find it mind-blowing.

“Talking to a little kid a little bit ago, and he found out that it wasn’t an actual real caveman,” Schumack said. “He was like, ‘wait what? it’s not real?’ and you could see the look of a blown mind. I think that’s what art is supposed to do. It’s supposed to make you wonder, guess and talk about it.”

To pull back the curtain on the mystery a little bit, Schumack explained that his buddy was responsible for the caveman part, while he was responsible for the ice part.

The caveman himself used to be a mannequin from a Burnsville mall. He said his artist partner Ian spent a lot of time researching to make sure Zug Zug was wearing all the things that were accurate for his time.

As for the “ice,” Schumack explained that it’s a mix of plexiglass and delicate epoxy work. He said he looked at an ice cube every night to perfectly mimic ice melting.

“It’s been a big debate online,” Schumack said. “It’s not CGI graphics. Someone was commenting about that. It’s definitely all handmade by me.”

He added that the epoxy was made opaque on purpose.

“This piece was designed, even a year ago, to draw you in closer to really get you kind of engage with the piece, and look for areas of clarity to see everything,” he explained.

By now, with Zug Zug having gained quite a social media following, a game of ‘go find the caveman’ has turned into a nice moment outside.

All this, leaving the artist and the gallery feeling fulfilled.

“We want to make sure that this is continuing to get people into the parks and into nature, and engaging with nature and with art, and that’s really the whole point in all of this,” Schumack said.

As for what’s next, Schumack said Zug Zug’s companion Zarah is somewhere in a Minnesota park. He said he could not give us any more details or clues about Zarah, because again, the fun is in finding her.


Sharon Yoo
‘A Chill Start to the Day’: Group Begins Each Morning with a Dunk In Frigid Lake Harriet – Minneapolis

‘A Chill Start to the Day’: Group Begins Each Morning with a Dunk In Frigid Lake Harriet – Minneapolis

KING THE NEWS: The Lake Harriet “Submergents” meet at 7:55 a.m. every morning to sit in the cold lake for three minutes. They say they believe it has various health benefits.
MINNEAPOLIS — Gone are the days of outdoor concerts at the Lake Harriet Bandshell and ice cream by the lake is now just ice. However, in Minnesota, winter and swimming aren’t mutually exclusive.

“It’s just so cold,” Jan Rolfe said. “Then it just goes away about a minute later and we just sit in for about three minutes.”


They say you can take a Minnesotan out of the land of 10,000 lakes, but you can’t take the lake life out of a Minnesotan. Here, whether it’s the mid 30s or the mid 80s, someone’s bound to be in the water. “We’re gonna go in Lake Harriet for three minutes and just go like shoulder deep,” Harriet White said. “There’s a lot of health benefits for it.”


In fact, every morning, a group that calls themselves “submergents,” have a chill start to their day. Some in the group claim that sitting in the cold water increases their metabolism. Some say it decreases inflammation. Others also claim their mind feels clearer after a dunk.


“When I first did it it hurt so bad, I didn’t think I could go all the way in and actually after about a minute you don’t feel the pain anymore,” Rolfe said with a laugh.


“The initial 20 seconds is like really hard, but you just need to control your breathing and then it gets easier,” Harriet’s sister Sylvia White said.


Last Friday, Steve Jewell led the group into the water.


“So we’re going to walk in, walk up to our waist, drop down to our knees,” he explained to the group. “Cross your hands if you’d like. I have a timer on and we’re going to pop up at three minutes.”


Sitting there, stuck in your own thoughts and fighting time may be the hardest part of it all. Many took to closing their eyes, or just staring off into space, focused on mindfulness.


“I feel terrific, once you’re in, and you do deep breathing, you stop hyperventilating,” Jewell said. “What really happens, is your body temp takes over and it warms the water around you, so I’m not cold right now.”


And just like that, it was quite a sight. Just a handful of bobbleheads on a yet to be frozen lake. For many time is passing as normal. For others, like molasses.




So why in Lake Harriet’s name…would people do this– let alone, return each morning?


Again, for some it’s a mind thing.


“when you get out it’s just so clear in your mind,” Rolfe said.


“There’s a sense of empowerment where you can face something like the cold and overcome your mind– with your body,” Alex Freese said. “So it’s just a daily practice.”


“It’s not just crazies running in the lake, well people do that too but if you notice, there are people who swim out here–there’s some value to cold temp swimming,” Jewell said. “The water is always going to be warmer than ice, so at least 35 degrees, the duration is up to you, we don’t stay longer than three minutes.


And the most Minnesotan answer of them all–it’s just something to do, that keeps you outside even during the winter season.


Midwesterners– we love our outdoor activity and to me this is another way of extending that outdoor activity,” Jewell said.


The Lake Harriet ‘submergents’ meet each morning at 7:55 at Lake Harriet.


 Sharon Yoo


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