Director of Food & Beverage
“Lenny is a believer, one of those people convinced he can change the world with no hesitation about doing everything possible to make it happen. Long before terms like ‘food justice,’ ‘sustainable,’ ‘farm to table,’ ‘local sourcing,’ ‘foraging,’ and ‘nose to tail’ were the calling cards of committed cooks, Lenny was living them. Take a look at his recipes to see what I mean.” – Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Chef Lenny Russo originally hails from Hoboken, NJ and was formally trained in clinical psychology, philosophy and literature at New College in Sarasota, Florida, spending six years as a child and family psychotherapist before devoting his energy full time to being a chef. He arrived on the Twin Cities food scene in 1985. Chef Russo is known for being a standard bearer of “North American Midwestern Regional Cuisine,” a concept best expressed in the opening of his acclaimed restaurant, Heartland, on October 27, 2002 in St. Paul. During Heartland’s 14 years of operation, Lenny honed and perfected the art of “Farm to Table” and “Nose to Tail” cooking.
Now, he’s putting his stamp on Wayzata.
In February of 2018, he took the helm at ninetwentyfive as Director of Food and Beverage with a simple, yet unique vision for the Wayzata food scene: Utilize, elevate and champion the incredible gift of Midwestern cuisine. Menus inspired by Lake Minnetonka, local farms and a wide variety of regional produce will complement each season and leave guests feeling “right at home.”
“I have the unique pleasure of giving joy to those who graciously allow us to serve them. We are often privileged to cook for some of the happiest times in people’s lives: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, job promotions and weddings. I can’t really think of anything better than that." – Chef Lenny Russo
Chef Russo has over forty years of experience in the food and beverage industry. He has held numerous positions including executive chef, general manager, food and beverage director and corporate chef for several Twin Cities companies among them being U.S. Restaurants, Aveda Corporation, W.A. Frost & Company, Faegre’s, the Loring Cafe, The Northland Inn Executive Conference Center, Blackberry Creek Market and the New French Cafe. In addition, Chef Russo is a member of the Chef Advisory Board of Saveur magazine.
Lenny, along with his wife and partner, Mega Hoehn, opened the original Heartland on October 27, 2002. Awards both locally and nationally include: “Best New Restaurant, 2003”, one of the “Twin Cities Top Four Restaurants, 2003, 2010”, “Best Neighborhood Restaurant, 2004, 2005”, “Best Restaurant 2006-2009” “Best Chef St. Paul, 2007-2009”, “Restaurateur of the Year 2007, “Best Desserts 2008”, “Best Wine Bar 2008-2010”, “Most Organic and Sustainable 2007” and “Top 100 Restaurants in the World 2008”. Heartland has also received the prestigious Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” from 2003-2015”.
In 2006, Chef Russo was recruited by Bon Appetit Management Company to create and open the restaurants for the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. From 2008 to 2016, Chef Russo was named a James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest and was named a finalist nominee in that category in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Chef Russo recently published his first cookbook entitle “Heartland: Farm Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest”. Profits from the book are donated to St. Paul’s Urban Roots, whose mission it is to build vibrant and healthy communities through food, conservation and youth development.
Recent awards include: “Best New Restaurant” (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, MSP Magazine, Midwest Living); “****” (Minneapolis Star Tribune); “97 out of 100 Points” (MSP Magazine); “Best Farm to Table Restaurant” (MSP Magazine); “Top Ten Twin Cities Restaurant” (MSP Magazine); “Best Take Out Lunch” (Minnesota Monthly) “Best St. Paul Restaurant” (City Pages); “Top 5 Best Butcher Shops” “Best Restaurant” (City Pages); “Best of MN: Food” (Minneapolis Star Tribune) “Saveur 100” (Saveur Magazine); Charlie Award for Lifetime Achievement.