NEW ULM - Age is no hindrance for Chad Cooreman when it comes to cooking. At 24 he is the restaurant manager and head chef at Lola's Larkspur in New Ulm, a veteran when it comes to putting good food on the plates, and in making the restaurant hum.
Cooreman has been manager at Lola's since November 2012, when owner and head chef Lacey Lueth named him manager while she took on other responsibilities, especially catering and providing food service at the New Ulm Event Center.
Cooreman, who had worked in the Lola's kitchen from January to October 2011, had taken the position of executive chef for Avera Hospital in Marshall, a job he held for a year while commuting from New Ulm.
Staff photo by Josh Moniz
Lacy Lueth and Chad Cooreman stand on the deck outside Lola’s Larkspur. Cooreman has been managing the restaurant and heading its kitchen since November. Lueth is owner of the restaurant and has become more involved with the catering aspect of the business.
"But I was still involved here, helping Lacey with catering jobs at times," Cooreman said. He was happy to give up the hour-and-a half drive to work each day when she asked him to manage the restaurant.
Cooreman grew up in Tracy, and began working in a restaurant kitchen when he was 16. He started out washing dishes and busing tables, but soon got a chance to do some cooking - putting on the roast beef, making soups, cooking breakfasts, baking cookies.
He took a home economics cooking class in high school called Pro Start Foods, which focused on cooking in professional kitchens, and was one of the first in the state to complete the class in 2007
Cooreman started studying mechanical engineering at Minnesota State University, but after a year, during which he worked in restaurants in Mankato, he decided his passion was in food.
He switched to the culinary school at South Central College, working 30 hours a week in restaurants while attending classes. He joined the Delta Epsilon Chi career development society, and was a member of one of the three teams DEX sent to Los Angeles for a national competition. One SCC team took first, and Cooreman's took 4th in the competition.
After graduation, Cooreman worked in several restaurants in the area, and at age 19 became kitchen manager at the Red Sky Lounge in Mankato.
"That was pretty big, managing a kitchen at 19, making all the decisions, doing the hiring and firing," Cooreman said.
His experience brought him to New Ulm, where he and Lueth share a passion about food and good cooking, and complement each other with their different styles.
"Lacey has the Italian-American style of cooking, the Italian bistro. I'm more a classical French cuisine style. I think every protein - meat or fish entree - should have a sauce," said Cooreman.
They both believe in cooking from scratch as much as possible, using fresh, area grown produce when in season. Lola's doesn't bake its own bread, but gets its baked goods, from croissants to crusty french bread to whole grains, from local bakeries.
Lola's is well known for its excellent lunches, from fresh made pasta salads to specialty sandwiches and homemade soups, but Cooreman said the restaurant is trying to build the reputation for its dinner service.
The restaurant is open Monday through Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but Thursday through Saturday it is open until 9 p.m. with a full dinner menu.
The restaurant gets fresh fish every Thursday, and Cooreman said one of his pleasures is coming up with new and tasty ways to serve it. He has been adding dishes to the menu, working with Lueth to find new ideas and test them out, and seeing what the customers like. From Sirloin Marsala, served with a wine sauce, with mushrooms, shallots, to salmon hash, made with Atlantic salmon, sweet potatoes and spicy Italian sausage; to chicken Saltumboca, to sesame tuna, the dishes are designed to please.
Cooreman said he takes a lot of pride in putting the food on the plate and presenting it in an artistic manner. He doesn't mind that his artistic efforts may be devoured a few minutes after it's presented.
"I like being able to prepare something delicious and presenting it in an appealing manner. After all, people eat with their eyes as well as their mouths."