Award-winning chef James Beard to run downtown Grand Rapids restaurant

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A prestigious chef is set to run the kitchen of a downtown Grand Rapids restaurant, and his arrival is being touted as a “huge win” for the city’s restaurant scene.

Paul Berglund, winner of the 2016 James Beard Foundation’s Best Midwestern Chef Award, will debut in early 2021 as the new Executive Chef of Mertens Prime. The restaurant, which opened in 2017 and is located at 35 Oakes St. SW, renamed in October from New Hotel Mertens.

“I was drawn to Grand Rapids in part by its vibrant and growing food and beverage community, which made me feel welcomed here,” Berglund said in a statement. “I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the momentum the region has generated in recent years.”

Berglund won his James Beard Award, often referred to as the Oscars of the Food World, in 2016 for his Northern European cuisine offerings as the Executive Chef of the Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis.

In line with the Mertens fare, Berglund concocts a menu aligned with French cuisine but with its own twists and mergers. The beginnings of Berglund’s menu hinge on the lifting of in-person dining regulations in Michigan, officials at Mertens Hospitality said.

Berglund will also oversee menus at other locations in the Mertens building, including Mertens Rooftop, Café Mertens and 9th St. Steaks. Berglund’s new menu for Mertens Rooftop will debut in late spring 2021.

“We are delighted that Paul is sharing his culinary gifts with the city of Grand Rapids,” said Anthony Tangorra, Managing Member and Restaurant Manager at Mertens Hospitality. “He is developing a menu that is designed to bring out his own talent and creativity in the expansive world of French cuisine and premium steaks and chops that is Mertens Prime. We’re excited to be the platform for Paul’s next step in his culinary journey.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss called Berglund’s move to Grand Rapids a “huge win” for the city and restaurant scene.

“The remarkable food and beverages produced by our restaurants, breweries and distilleries in Grand Rapids have generated incredible benefits for our city,” Bliss said in a statement. “The addition of a nationally recognized chef of the caliber of Paul Berglund to our already vibrant restaurant community is a huge victory for Grand Rapids. We welcome Paul with open arms and look forward to drawing visitors to Grand Rapids to explore his cuisine among the many exceptional restaurants in our city.

Berglund, as executive chef, designed the Bachelor Farmer’s menu when it opened in 2011. Bon Appétit magazine named it one of its top 10 new restaurants of 2012.

He left The Bachelor Farmer in 2017 to be closer to his wife, Tia Chakraborty, who was pursuing a neurology residency at the Mayo Clinic near Rochester, Minnesota.

Berglund and Chakraborty were brought to Grand Rapids after Chakraborty was recently appointed neurointensivist at Spectrum Health.

Prior to his time in Minnesota, Berglund learned his culinary skills at the Oliveto Café and Restaurant in Oakland, California. At the restaurant with an Italian vocation, he reached the rank of chef.

The take-out service at Mertens Prime is currently discontinued as Berglund is working on the new menu. Café Mertens and 9th St. Steaks continue to offer take-out and delivery under their current menus.

Reservations at Mertens Prime have also been temporarily suspended. The restaurant will announce when reservations will be available for reservation in the near future.

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