St. Paul’s French Meadow: Executive Chef Samantha Jensen at the Helm

What’s Cooking? Getting up close and personal with a Twin Cities favorite

Welcome to “What’s Cooking?,” an occasional series profiling Bite Squad’s restaurant partners in the Twin Cities, where you’ll find out what’s happening at your favorite delivery spot (and what recommendations they have for customers).

You’ve probably heard of French Meadow Bakery & Café with two locations in the Twin Cities. This piece profiles the eatery’s Grand Avenue location in St. Paul. Unlike the original location in Minneapolis, the St. Paul restaurant has been styled into more of a French bistro and wine bar than a bakery and café. But like its counterpart across the river, the focus is on organic, sustainable and local.

French Meadow’s St. Paul kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Samantha Jensen, who’s held that post for four years after working her way up from sous chef. Her pedigree goes back before that to a stint with the iconic (and lamented) Lucia’s in Minneapolis, where she developed a strong foundation focusing on local and organic ingredients.

“I learned so much [at Lucia’s], and that’s why coming to this French Meadow was a good fit for me,” said Jensen. “I continue to use my experience here, where the focus is on partnering with lots of local farmers, looking for quality and value, the best foods we can find.”

Her days start with a quick dash to nearby Coastal Seafoods to search for fish of the day. “I love to work with them, because I know they’re also focused on sustainable foods,” Jensen said. She has latitude to make changes to the menu as she deems advisable, which means her menu is not always identical with the Minneapolis location. “We’re both chef-driven restaurants,” she said. “But I have the ability to be nimble when I need to be. We take a lot of pride in our food, both for its sourcing and for its quality.”

Another important objective for Jensen is that the restaurant’s food have something for everyone. “We have meat, we have breads and pastries, but we also cater to gluten-free vegans,” she said. “There’s going to be something for everybody to eat.”

When it comes to food going out the door with Bite Squad drivers, Jensen said French Meadow can do anything from small individual orders to large catering orders. As for what she recommends in terms of delivery, she said simply, “We’ll always be happy to give people what they want.”

That said, she suggests asking for salad dressing on the side to keep the salad fresh and ordering things like cheeseburgers a little less done than someone would when dining-in. “Meat can keep cooking after it’s off the stove,” she said, “so if someone likes a medium burger, I’d suggest they order a medium-rare, then it’s just getting to medium when it’s delivered.”

Zen Salad from French Meadow.

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