Spoonriver's Brenda Langton: Chef Chat, Part 3

Owner Brenda Langton and pastry chef Kristen Schafbuch of Spoonriver

Owner Brenda Langton and pastry chef Kristen Schafbuch of Spoonriver

Today we conclude our chef chat with Brenda Langton, owner of Spoonriver restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. (Here are parts 1 and 2.) Langton talks about the need to revitalize American food culture and her dream of becoming a food writer. She also shares a fall recipe.


What do you think of food culture in the U.S.? When we drove through Iowa, it's like certainly there are good, home-cooked restaurants throughout. It's just there are fewer and fewer of them, they're harder to find. We've lost our identity with what real food is. So many restaurants, it's like deep-fat-fried food that gets brought by a truck, and that's it.

There's a movement. It's happening. We need an army to change this country's health, because of what we put in our bodies.

So are there some positive examples of restaurants in the Twin Cities that you enjoy eating at? Yes, there are, but we need more.

Any fall dishes you're looking forward to having on the menu? There isn't one favorite thing. I love food too much to say there's one. Last year I had to put on our own chicken soup, because I couldn't find a good homemade chicken stock in town on the menu every day, so we made our own and we had homemade chicken soup every day through the winter.

Right now I'm really just looking forward to the squash and to all of those great root vegetables so they can accompany fish and rib eye and be in the vegetarian specials.


What is your favorite kitchen tool? I love wooden spoons. I like to buy wooden spoons on my travels. Cooking with them, the feel of them, and the shapes, and they're just beautiful.

What has been your weirdest customer request? After 30-some years there's too many to mention. Well, today I have a dog sitting on a chair, drinking out of its owners' glass, and she's insisting on sharing her glass on the patio. What do you say to that?

What would you do for a living if you couldn't run a restaurant? That is a really thought-provoking question, because I tend to think about things in the world that need help. Would I be working with women in third-world countries trying to make their lives better? Again, that's the sort of thing I think that I should do because that's what needs help.

I've worked six days a week always. I would just love any job that I could work less at with, say, food--but I can't say food, right? I guess I'd like to sing. I am totally blown away by how beautifully some people can sing.

I think it would be fantastic to be able to write, to be able to really write about food. I am so deeply moved by food that I would like to share some of those feelings.

With fall around the corner, Langton was kind enough to share a butternut squash recipe with us after the interview.


Butternut squash, washed and prepped and cut into ¼-inch-thick pieces Green beans, washed and trimmed 4 cups kale, washed and cut up 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil A few cloves garlic, chopped 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce 1/2 cup water

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add squash, green beans, and garlic and stir about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and water, then cover and simmer 4 to 5 minutes, until tender.

Add the kale and cover for about 3 minutes until tender. (Kale can be young with thin leaves, which will cook in 2 minutes, or older with thicker leaves, which will take closer to 4 minutes.) If the water cooks out, simply add a splash more.

Optional: Use toasted sesame oil instead of olive oil. This is also good with unrefined coconut oil. Just reduce the amount to 1/2 Tbsp. of oil and skip the garlic.