Farm at the Arb: From Plant to Plate

by | Mar 2024

Beth Fisher

Beth Fisher. Photo: Jason Boudreau-Landis

Chef brings her bona fides from Twin Cities “locavore” restaurants to a new role.

If there’s one person whose career can tell the story of the Twin Cities farm-to-table food scene over the past 30 years, it might be Beth Fisher. The lake-area chef and culinary instructor—who grew up in Deephaven—has played a key role in the kitchens of a hefty handful of acclaimed local restaurants, from Lucia’s (now closed in Minneapolis) and Wise Acre Eatery to Thirty Bales, with plenty of stops in between.

Over the past year, Fisher has donned her apron in a new setting: the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Farm at the Arb, where she’s launching a first-of-its-kind, “plant-to-plate” culinary curriculum for arboretum guests. “I’ll be bringing in chefs from around the state who want to cook with us,” Fisher says. “We’ll have chefs’ series classes, a few fundamental classes and lots of fun stuff in the future.”

Fisher works with the arboretum’s agriculture experts to plan crops for the recently opened Myers Education Center, which includes Fisher’s high-tech kitchen/classroom. Also at the farm are edible gardens, a pollinator center and other venues that showcase Minnesota’s food heritage. “I hope visitors learn how important the state’s agriculture is to us, the nation and the world,” Fisher says. “We want to tell them about the crops of the future, and I’ll be able to teach them how to use those things.”

Fisher’s resumé seems tailor-made for her new role at the arboretum; she was a locavore before the movement was hip. Her childhood was spent boating on Lake Minnetonka and exploring nature. “I’d get my tackle box and fishing pole, walk down the railroad tracks and throw my line in the water and catch sunnies all day,” she says. “It was an idyllic childhood.” She graduated from Minnetonka High School in 1982 and went on to the University of Minnesota, where she soon found a job as “the popover girl” at the former Winfield Potters restaurant. “I thought it’d be a good weekend job,” Fisher says. The restaurant offered her first glimpse into the kitchen—and she loved it.

Next, Fisher worked her way to the kitchen at Lucia’s, a staple of the Uptown food scene, founded by Lucia Watson. “I didn’t have enough experience when I first met Lucia,” she says. “I went and worked at a lunch spot and got really fast line-cooking lessons.” After a few hops, Fisher stayed at Lucia’s for 12 years. She departed in 2000 to launch her own catering business—with the support of loyal customers from Lucia’s—and did just about everything herself. “I’d snail mail a menu, we’d adjust it and then I’d show up with my bus tubs and cook in clients’ homes,” Fisher says. “We had fun.”

Her partner, Caroline Glawe, joined the team as a wine expert, and they continued to work together as culinary and wine consultants for eateries all over the Metro, including for notable spots like Thirty Bales (Hopkins), Rustica Bakery (Minneapolis) and the notoriously beloved French Meadow (Minneapolis).

Another of Fisher’s passions—gardening—took them in a new direction a little over a decade ago. “I emailed [Scott Endres and Dean Engelmann] of Tangletown Gardens,” Fisher says. “They had bought the custard shop across the way and needed someone to run it. We met the next morning, and we were a good match.” Fisher, Glawe, Endres and Engelmann opened Minneapolis’ Wise Acre Eatery, which featured a farm-to-table menu, devised by Fisher, using crops from Tangletown’s gardens and farm.

As she was reaching the post-COVID-19 phase of her career, Fisher was consulting a bit and puttering around her own home garden. She decided she’d focus more on growing things and less on food. “I applied to a different position at the arboretum,” she says. The arb’s director of education, Tim Kenny, saw her resume and invited her to see the Farm at the Arb. “I met with Tim and saw the space and was just quite blown away by it all,” Fisher says.

Now, as she’s spent the past several months settling into her new role as the culinary programmer and instructor, she’s full of ideas. “Supporting local farmers has always been at the core of who I am as a chef,” she says.

“Beth is a great fit for the education team,” Kenny says. “The new kitchen classroom at the farm is where the magic happens when engaging our visitors and guests in the soil-to-plate story. Beth brings that story to life in an engaging and delicious way.”

Local Love

When visitors come to the Lake Minnetonka area from out of town, where does kitchen veteran Fisher take them out for dinner? “Daniel Del Prado is taking over the world,” she says of the local chef whose star continues to rise. “I love his food and his flavors, and I think it’s been really fun to watch him open his restaurants in the suburbs.”

Separated by just a few blocks on Lake Street in Wayzata, Del Prado’s Josefina showcases Italian flavors, while his Macanda offers Latin American dishes with a dose of the region’s magical realism.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Farm at the Arb
3210 W. 82nd St., Chanhassen
Facebook: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Instagram: @mn_arb


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