Chef and restaurateur Justin Sutherland has been named Eater – Twin Cities Chef of the Year.

Sutherland first began to turn heads (and taste buds) as chef and part owner of Lowertown St. Paul’s Handsome Hog. He has since cultivated a restaurant empire in the Twin Cities with the additions of  Eagle Street Grill, Fitzgerald’s, Public Kitchen and Bar, Green Lantern (Public’s lower level bar), OxCart Alehouse, Gray Duck and the Pearl & the Thief (formerly of Stillwater, slated to open in downtown Minneapolis).

Being a television celebrity doesn’t seem to hurt either.

Sutherland’s seemingly meteoric rise has come after winning Food Network’s coveted “Iron Chef” in 2018 and later becoming a fan favorite on Season 16 of Bravo’s hugely popular “Top Chef.” Sutherland has welcomed several of his fellow “Top Chef” castmates to the area for pop-up events at his restaurants, but it’s his own creations that garnered him the Eater honor.

“From the small screen to moving into the leadership of the Madison Restaurant group it has been an incredible year for the St. Paul-based chef,” wrote Eater editor Joy Summers in announcing Sutherland’s win.

Summers said Sutherland’s ramen and Japanese fried chicken stand, O Bachan offered “the single best bite of fried chicken we encountered this year.”

In addition to being a top chef (pun intended), Eater praised Sutherland for helping to diversify the restaurant industry.

“It’s not just the usual kitchen and celebrity turn that makes his rise and rule of 2019 so impressive,” said Summers. “Sutherland has traveled the country and worked here at home to promote diversity in the kitchen, and share his experiences as a young Black chef. He’s begun difficult and important conversations while also opening the door and welcoming in others to follow him.”

“None of it would be possible without my incredible team, partners, and staff that work so hard every day, and the amazing community that continues to support us,” said Sutherland in a Facebook post announcing the honor. “Thank you to everyone who helped make this year possible.”

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