Chef Erick Harcey wants you to feel at home. And then he wants to blow your mind.
He is the head chef and owner of three Minneapolis restaurants: The casually sophisticated North Side fixture, Victory 44, named Minneapolis’s “Best Neighborhood Cafe,” the takeout chicken joint with a gourmet twist, called The Dirty Bird, and the ambitious, rule-bending Upton 43, just named one of the 21 Best New Restaurants in the United States.
Chef Harcey’s deep Swedish roots are at the source of his cooking. He has never quite recreated, in later life, the joy of coming home from school in Cambridge, MN, and smelling, before he even opened the door, that his mother was baking potato dill bread. And it was several long talks near the end of his Swedish grandfather’s life that gave him the ultimate vision for Upton 43. But Chef Harcey is just as influenced by Marco Pierre White’s White Heat, and the insatiable inventiveness of Ferran Adría.
He hopes that eating in one of his restaurants manages to capture both the simple and the audacious in these influences. He wants you to feel attended to, and cared for, at his table—like one of the regulars at his grandfather’s restaurant, Kaffe Stuga, up in Harris, MN. But then he wants to put something on your plate that explodes your ideas about the ingredients in front of you, and makes you think differently about food. He can’t think of a better feeling than watching a guest melt with both pleasure and wonder at a mouthful of his cooking—of communicating that much emotion through the language of food.
If you don’t find Chef Harcey in the kitchen, it may be that he is coaching one of his sons’ baseball teams. Or it may be that he is in a quiet room, trying to turn a crazy idea into a workable new menu item. Or, if all goes really well, it may be that there is a fat walleye kicking at the end of his line. And he will be cooking it up for his wife and four boys a little later. And Motörhead will be playing. Loud.