Arts and Culture

Minneapolis pastry chef Shawn McKenzie in the final round for national James Beard award

A woman holds dough on a table
Shawn McKenzie, executive pastry chef at Café Cerés and Rustica, is one of five finalists from around the country for best pastry chef from the James Beard Foundation.
Courtesy photo

Shawn McKenzie started baking cookies at 11 years old alongside her chef father at a senior center. He taught her patience, waiting for the dough to be ready. Even then, she says she focused on the chocolate chips coming through with just the right texture and flavor lasting for days.

“I was always obsessed with making sure it didn’t taste like it was old or crusty.”

Her obsession that started, and continues, with cookies helped the Minneapolis chef move to the top of her profession.

McKenzie and four other bakers from around the country are the finalists for the best pastry chef award from the James Beard Foundation. The foundation made the announcement on Wednesday.

McKenzie co-founded Café Cerés, which has two shops in south Minneapolis. She’s also the executive pastry chef at Rustica.

On MPR News’ Minnesota Now, host Cathy Wurzer asked McKenzie Tuesday what the nomination means for the future. McKenzie credits others who have worked with her and said while it’s an honor for her team, "I'm trying not to think of, OK, what is this going to do. I guess I'm still trying to take one step at a time … I need to bake off cookies today, you know?"

The best chef Midwest category includes five chefs from Madison, Milwaukee, Omaha and Sioux Falls. None of the Twin Cities chefs in the category made it past the semifinalist round.

Beard award winners will be announced June 5 in Chicago.

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