With a background at local restaurants like Palomino and Cafe and Bar Lurcat, local chef Irina Kolosov is bringing new flavors to Bloomington at Parma 8200. Pairing new concepts with tried and true Italian dishes, Chef Irina introduces a fun, fresh seasonal menu focusing on local ingredients.
Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS sat down with Kolosov to hear more about how Parma 8200 is amping up their summertime menus.
EAT.DRINK.DISH MPLS: So, Parma 8200— what drew you here? What drew you to cooking in general?
IRINA KOLOSOV: Well, I remember in high school when everyone was trying to figure out what they wanted to do, I think the first thing that came into my head was that I wanted to cook, I love cooking. My mom, she’s a huge inspiration. She cooked every single day; she worked two jobs and she’d come home and cook something different every single time. So I got to experience a lot of different flavors as a young kid. So right out of high school I went into culinary school, I completed my associate’s degree and got an internship at Palomino when it was still around. And I just remember being in it— super intense— and I think they saw something in me. So they threw me on the line. Super young, my first restaurant gig, and I had no idea how to even do it, you know. And we were doing like, 300 400 covers for lunch and I was doing it by myself, learning it as I go. That’s how I learned to be fast and you know, work, multitask. That kind of prepared me for Lurcat. So of course I learned a lot from working there, got to learn all the stations and it was a lot of fun and I knew it was my passion. I loved the intensity and you know, just working fast, thinking fast.
EDD: Do you see certain trends or themes that you’ve seen throughout your career, certain things you like or have learned at other places— Lurcat or elsewhere— that you’ve brought here to Parma 8200?
IK: Teamwork. Teamwork is key. Being a leader, and leading a team is the most amazing experience. When they respect you and you respect them, it just flows so naturally. It just makes work so much more fun and easy, you know, when you have that solid team. Everyone has each other’s backs and you don’t even have to say anything. Everyone just helps each other and just having that— seeing that at Lurcat and bringing it to Parma— really helps the whole situation, even when it’s crazy busy. It’s so important.
EDD: Are there certain culinary trends you are seeing and enjoying? Or ones that you just want to die already?
IK: I think the only trend I want to go is gluten free. That’s the only trend that bothers me. But I don’t mind the other trends because it also depends on how you use it. There’s so many different ingredients and so many different things you can do with it, it all depends on how you integrate it into the dish. If you make it fun and exciting, why not? I think it’s really awesome when chefs use ingredients that are not used very often and then bring it back with other fun ingredients.
EDD: That’s great! In terms of flavors, I’ve read in the past that you pointed out the positive simplicity of Italian cuisine. What’s your take on Italian versus some of the other options out there?
IK: That’s why I love Italian food. You don’t need a lot of ingredients. You just need good, fresh ingredients. You make the dish pop and exciting. This summer, when I was creating this menu, that’s what I was going for— local, really fresh. It was easy after that, making these dishes. For instance we have a really exciting dish: it’s a cedar plank salmon. It’s wild Norwegian salmon and we cook it on a little cedar plank, and we broil it so it starts to smell and get really smokey. And everybody knows— the whole restaurant smells. The dish is very simple; there’s no oil, there’s no fat on the fish. It’s just cooked straight on the plank and we just season it with some herbs after it’s finished. It comes with grilled zucchini and roasted tomatoes and I just love that dish. It’s super healthy, it smells great, it’s fun, it’s something different. Again, it’s simple and it’s great.
EDD: Wow that sounds wonderful. You mentioned a bit too, about the new Market Menu. Tell me more about your vision for that.
IK: We’re using a lot of local vendors, for instance. We have an awesome beet fettuccine; we use fresh beet juice to make the dough. Again, really simple. We use this fun acid butter, that we put in there, with lemon juice and white wine. The same dish, we use Stickney Hill Farms which is also local. It’s fun because it’s something different that we’ve never done before. I mean, local is awesome. Especially now that it’s summertime. We’re getting more products in and what I’m most excited about is going to the local markets— there’s so many— and actually going in and picking out veggies and ingredients and just using that. I think that’s going to be amazing.
EDD: How do you translate that to something like this, a larger restaurant. You’re doing these things on a larger scale. How does it translate in that sense? Is that difficult to use local ingredients on such a large scale?
IK: You know it’s something new for us, now that it is getting busier, I don’t think it’s that hard to get enough of those ingredients because they’re so readily available. Just waking up in the morning and visiting the local markets, it’s like a chef’s dream coming true. It works.
EDD: How about the market menu— tell me more about the process for creating that menu.
IK: We touch base right before we’re about to do a menu change. [I get] a run down of all the things that are available. So I take those ingredients and I think about what will pair really well with that— can I make it into a pasta dish? Can I do some sort of beef dish with it? For instance, zucchini is going to be available next month so I’m already thinking ahead like, well we can use zucchini squash blossoms and use burrata, which is also local. Things just start coming together.
EDD: It seems like it allows for a lot more creativity too, on a scale where you’re not creating an entirely new menu each month either.
IK: Yeah, what’s fun about it too, is that you’re constantly thinking. You don’t stop. You make this menu for June, and you already have to start thinking about July. You’re always thinking about ideas. You’re constantly thinking about what can go well with this, go well with that. That’s really fun. Plus I get to know vendors that I never knew of, doing all this research and talking with other local farmers, which helps them with business as well.
EDD: Having some ideas about your atmosphere in the kitchen and how that translates to the atmosphere out here on the patio or in the dining room, what’s your perspective on what that’s like? Is there a strong threshold or does it feel cohesive throughout?
IK: Right now I’m building my team. It’s really hard to find cooks right now so I started working the line a lot more. I realized how much I missed it, and how important it is for the chef to actually work the line with the cooks because you get to experience it in a different way. You get the lead the team again and you get to work next to them instead of being the usual cook-for chef that I was a little while ago. I miss this! It actually does— it becomes more of a team, more cohesive because you’re a part of it now. You’re working side by side and it’s different. I realize I need that more.
EDD: I’m curious to know more about the unique side of this restaurant— compared to others in the Twin Cities and with Italian cuisine. Is it your menu that really sets you apart, or the atmosphere perhaps?
IK: Well I think for the restaurant itself, the atmosphere is amazing. We have a great patio, it’s out in an area where it’s quiet, it’s beautiful, it’s grassy. That separates it from Minneapolis where it’s really noisy. When you come here you get to enjoy the air! Also I think what separates the menu is, I think we have a lot of fun doing what we do. The ingredients that we use, the seasoning— I like to add some flair when I cook, with different flavors that aren’t normally used in other restaurants. We have fresh pastas— our pastas are amazing. Some of the best I’ve had! I’m not just saying that. We have an awesome pasta guy that comes in at like, four in the morning and rolls fresh pasta every single day. I think that separates us.
EDD: And you guys have music— live music. That doesn’t seem as common in finer diner places.
IK: Yep! Thursday, Friday, Saturday we have live jazz bands. It’s nice, it’s consistent. You’re going to expect it.
EDD: So, to wrap up. Tell us why you Eat.Drink.Dish.
IK: I Eat.Drink.Dish to have fun cooking and work with local ingredients.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
All photos by Lauren Cutshall.