GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A prestigious chef is making plans to start his own restaurant in the Grand Rapids area.
Paul Berglund told MLive/The Grand Rapids Press he’s in between the pre-planning and planning stages for a restaurant of his own somewhere in the area.
The James Beard Foundation’s 2016 Best Midwest Chef Award winner is keeping the details close at the moment about what type of cuisine will be offered, saying he will unveil that when the time is right. Berglund currently doesn’t have a timeline for opening.
Berglund won his James Beard Award, often referred to as the Oscars of the food world, in 2016 for his Northern European cuisine offerings as executive chef at The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis.
When he moved to the Grand Rapids area in 2020, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss touted it as a “huge win” for the city’s restaurant scene.
Berglund said he and his wife, Tia Chakraborty, have felt nothing but welcome in the area.
“Since moving to town, I’ve gotten to know many people in the restaurant world and I’ve felt truly welcomed by everyone I’ve met,” Berglund said. “It says a lot about the community that so many people have gone out of their way to welcome both Tia and me.”
Berglund started his cooking career at a farm-to-table Italian restaurant called Oliveto in Oakland, California, where almost all of the fresh food was bought from farms in the area.
“One of the very few exceptions we made was to special order Michigan sour cherries each summer,” he said. “Along with making desserts with them, we would preserve them, to be served with grilled game birds. I can still taste those dishes, and now here I am, 15 years later, in cherry country. I feel pretty fortunate in that regard. We’re in a great food region.”
Berglund debuted in early 2021 as the new executive chef of Mertens Prime, creating a new menu for the restaurant that aligned with French-focused cuisine but with his own twists and fusions. The restaurant is located at 35 Oakes St. SW in Grand Rapids.
Sometime in 2021, Berglund and Mertens parted ways. Neither Berglund nor Mertens Hospitality officials offered details behind the split or when it happened.
A Mertens Hospitality spokesperson said the restaurant was pleased to have Berglund onboard when it reopened earlier this year and appreciate his contribution. Some of Berglund’s offerings remain on the menu.
“Since then we have been looking to the future by focusing on the past and have re-connected with various members of the Mertens family and expect to weave even more of the history of Grand Rapids and New Hotel Mertens into our experience; along with adding more classical French and Continental dishes to the menu,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“The Mertens Prime menu that we released in the early Spring supported that purpose, adding back many of our guests’ favorite dishes including numerous French classics, and we’ve been overwhelmed by and grateful for the positive reaction.”
Following Berglund’s time in California, he moved to Minnesota in 2010.
As executive chef, he crafted the menu at The Bachelor Farmer when it opened in 2011 in Minneapolis. Bon Appétit Magazine named it among its top 10 best new restaurants of 2012.
He left The Bachelor Farmer in 2017 to be closer to Chakraborty, who was pursuing a neurology residency at the Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester, Minnesota.
Berglund and Chakraborty came to the Grand Rapids area after Chakraborty was appointed last year as a neurointensivist at Spectrum Health.
Berglund said West Michigan has an “incredibly rich agricultural bounty.”
“It’s rich in agriculture and that’s something that really drew me to the area,” he said. “I have spent almost my entire career pretty deep into the local food community, and I’m really excited to be where I am right now for that reason.”
Those interested in having Berglund cook for private events and dinner parties can find out more on his website at https://www.foodbypaul.com/. He is no longer accepting requests to be a personal chef.
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