Chef de Cuisine Nick Dugan moved to Minneapolis to be a part of the booming food scene in the Twin Cities and, ultimately, to work with Gavin. The two met for coffee the same day that Kaysen signed the lease for Bellecour and joined the opening team soon after, offering him the unique ability to watch Bellecour grow from an idea and an empty building into a beautiful reality.
Dugan grew up in a small farm town in upstate New York, where his dad was an avid hunter and his mom cooked dinner for their family every night. It was over those family dinners that he realized the power that food has to bring people together. From a young age, Dugan would stand beside his mother, learning to cook.
Once he was old enough to work, Dugan started as a dishwasher at the local pizzeria, working his way to prep cook, then fry cook, then line cook. After six years, Dugan decided to make the leap to culinary school, attending the Culinary Institute of America.
Following culinary school, Dugan spent a year traveling and competing with the American Culinary Federation. He credits that year, and his mentors Chefs Rudy Speckamp and Brad Barnes, with teaching him to always try to do better, work harder, push farther, never settle, and to continue to strive for the best. Prior to joining the opening team at Bellecour, Dugan worked for Michael Mina, first at Bourbon Steak in Washington, DC, then as chef de cuisine at RN74 Seattle, focusing on French bistro food.
At Bellecour, Dugan prepares what he calls “Bistro Greatest Hits” which is his favorite type of food to cook and to eat. “When there are 5 ingredients on a plate you better bet that all 5 ingredients need to be the best, sourced from the right farmers, treated with care and love from seed to table,” says Dugan. “There is something very beautiful about the straightforward attitude of the food we’re cooking. We’re not complicating things, just taking delicious, well-raised product, treating it with the utmost respect, and using classic technique. It takes serious restraint to get into that mindset.”
Dugan hopes that guests at Bellecour feel comfortable enjoying a casual evening, date night, celebration or special occasion and he aims to have his food strike a chord with all types of guests. Of his role at Bellecour, Dugan says, “The most beautiful thing about my job is the versatility. On any given day I have the pleasure of cooking alongside some of the finest cooks in town, washing dishes next to an incredibly hard working crew of pot washers, or cooking and tasting dishes with Chef Kaysen.”
When Dugan isn’t working, he likes camping, reading, grilling, and checking out new restaurants.