Ten years after taking over the kitchen at Sanctuary, chef Patrick Atanalian has moved on.
“Michael [Kutscheid, the restaurant’s owner and host extraordinaire] and I have decided to part ways,” he said. “It’s cool. Michael and I are still great friends, and the restaurant is a little gem, a little diamond.”
Over the past decade, the native of Marseille, France, has made the dinner-only restaurant a destination not only for pre- and post-Guthrie dining, but for an audience that embraced Atanalian’s artful, post-fusion cooking.
His current menu features such dishes as marlin with orange mashed potatoes and blue cheese-infused hoisin sauce, pork tenderloin with blueberry-bacon marmalade and tuna tartare with mandarin gel and Tabasco-chocolate ganache, a remarkable output given the kitchen’s cramped quarters.
“After 10 years, the kitchen was just getting too small for me,” he said. “After a while, there is only so much you can do.”
Atanalian (pictured, above, in a 2014 Star Tribune file photo) also pioneered the value-priced tasting menu. In its current form it's a five-course, $35 spread.
So far, Atanalian's plans are up in the air.
“I don’t know what I’ll be doing,” he said. “We’ll see. Right now I’m just seeing what’s up. If someone has something for me in Chicago, I’ll go to Chicago, or Los Angeles. Or I’ll stay here in the Twin Cities. I don’t know yet.”
Oct. 14 was his last day.
“It was time for a change for Patrick,” said Kutscheid. “He’s one of my best friends on earth, and I will always love him. I know that we’ll resurface together, somewhere, sometime.”
Atanalian’s replacement? Get this: it’s Gary Stenberg, the chef Atanalian replaced 10 years ago.
“What’s that saying? ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ something like that?” asked Kutscheid. “Well I think Gary has just violated that rule. This is one of those circular things that you don’t see coming until it’s right there, like last Sunday’s Vikings win.”
Will the restaurant change? Sure. But not radically, said Kutscheid.
“I think about it this way,” he said. “If you filled a refrigerator with odds and ends and turned them over to Gary and Patrick, they would both make an incredible four-course dinner. Patrick’s might be more esoteric and exotic, and Gary’s might be more rustic, and comfortable and genuine.”
Stenberg’s first menu will debut Nov. 4.
And yes, fans of the restaurant, the $35 tasting menu — offered Monday through Thursday —will remain.
“We’ll never stop that,” said Kutscheid. “We’re so well-known for it.”