Over time, the Rochester restaurant scene certainly has had its changes. Who better to reminisce about the changing Rochester restaurant scene with than Chef Pat Reding?
Reding, a native of this area who was born in Zumbrota, has worked on the culinary teams of many once-vibrant local establishments.
She says she fell into a culinary career “by accident.” Aftre high school, her first “real job” was a factory work position. When she began to “simply hate” the position, she says, a family friend suggested a job at a local bar. Reding views this as the start of her hospitality career.
In 1977, she moved to Rochester, hiring on at Michael’s Restaurant as a kitchen runner. She advanced to the food line to portion things, then to “crepe maker,” at the time when Michael’s offered a crepe bar.
Just three years later, she moved on, and in the years that followed, she found herself in various kitchens, including Tinkler’s (now Goonie’s), Henry Wellington’s (now City Café) and finally, the Aviary (now a car dealership), where she stayed until the restaurant closed at the end of 2004.
Saints on Second Bar and Grill, in the Courtyard by Marriott, opened its doors the next year. Reding was hired on here, in advance of the opening, giving her the opportunity to establish the initial menu. Though Reding thought about “reinventing herself,” once local residents learned she was there, they followed, often requesting some of her signature dishes, which she had established a reputation for during her 20 years at the Aviary, which had a Caribbean theme.
Reding quickly found that visibility can be an issue for a restaurant within a hotel setting. Awnings along the Second Street Southwest side of the hotel help bring awareness to Saints.
Being across from Mayo Clinic Hospital – Saint Marys means that a significant amount of Saints’ patronage winds up being visitors to Rochester. Reding is thrilled with the wide customer base she sees, as often people from other communities demonstrate a palate which is “truly wide open. They come from a different landscape of food offerings and menu variety with different flavors and style dishes than those currently on the radar in Rochester.”
Reding has come to maintain that there are no secrets in cooking.
“It is simply how far you push the envelope,” she said.
For her, the essentials for creating a successful dish are a good chef’s knife, garlic, onions, mushrooms and seasonings — her own three special blends being key to several of her signature dishes.
Getting to know Chef Reding is a delight. She chuckles as she recalls her varied restaurant experiences and the wonderful people she has had the opportunity to work with. This includes John Kazos, a former chef at Michaels. Though his support of Reding was demonstrated by advancing her to a line position for the food prep — a position before never held by a woman since the restaurant had opened in 1951 — he expressed his belief that a woman could not stand up to the rigors demanded of a dedicated chef. Quite sincere, Kazos admonished Reding saying, “If I were you, I’d get out of the business before you get hooked.”
Clearly Reding has found many rewards in the culinary profession. In her current position, as head chef and beverage manager, Reding does it all: hires, fires, trains, supervises and cooks side-by-side with other staff. Asked when she is happiest at work, she is quick to confess “when I am not doing dishes.”
She thrives with the “instant gratification,” which strikes daily.
“You know,” she starts saying, “you don’t have to wait. You see the dish … people try … people give feedback.”
From such feedback, one still finds Rochester’s original blackened steak sandwich, sticky chicken sandwich, chicken asparagus penne and Reding’s popular sticky chicken fingers on the menu at Saints.
Reding has learned by doing and working her way up as she learned the skills required to be a successful chef. Though often tired at the end of her work day, she maintains that the rewards are seemingly endless.