Jorge Guzman is just your average college linebacker-turned-world-renowned-chef. Heard it once, heard it a thousand times, right?
Guzman is the executive chef at Surly Brewing Company, overseeing the menu and dining program for the Beer Hall, Scheid Hall, and Brewer’s Table since August 2014. He designed the food components from scratch and oversaw them when each concept launched. If you’ve ever been floored by a meal at the Beer Hall or Brewer’s Table, that’s Jorge.
His path to Surly started in Mexico. He was born in Mexico City, and his family moved to Merida Yucatan shortly after, a place he fondly recalls for having some of the best food in the world. He came to America when his dad took a job in St. Louis. That was also where the 17-year-old Guzman started his first restaurant job at Chez Leon.
As noted, Drake University recruited him out of St. Louis’ De Smet Jesuit High School to play football. (Fox Sports still has his player profile online if you need proof.) After graduating, Guzman changed his pursuit from quarterbacks to food, attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After that, Guzman spent time at Magnolias (Charleston), D.O.C. Wine Bar (Chicago), Tejas (Minneapolis) and Corner Table (Minneapolis) before landing at Solera, a Spanish and tapas-theme restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, where he was executive chef of the restaurant and event center. And now he’s here.
The work he’s done at Surly has not gone unnoticed. Jorge is a 2017 finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Midwest honor. He was also a semifinalist for that award in 2016, won the 2016 Minneapolis regional completion for Cochon555, was named chef of the year 2015 by the Star Tribune, and was named a 2015 Top Chef by Food Service News. He’s been featured in Time Magazine, Travel & Leisure, and Food & Wine Magazine, which named Brewer’s Table one of its Best New Restaurants of 2016.
You also may have seen Guzman on the Travel Channel talking with Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. “He’s just a regular guy, like one of your buddies from college,” says Guzman.
Guzman’s menus for both the beer hall and the finer dining Brewer’s Table are driven by fresh, seasonal offerings. He is an advocate for meats and produce that are locally sourced, sustainable and organic, and he constantly explores the perfect pairing and tasting profiles of food and beer. “Pairing the two is still fairly new in the culinary world,” he says. “It’s so new that people may think we’re setting a trend, which is cool.” His current favorites: Witch’s Tower (brown ale) with cilantro, and Hell (lager) with dill.
His passion for supporting local agriculture is evident in his commitment to Farm in the Cities, a charitable network he co-founded that connects local farmers and chefs and raises money for local organizations like Youth Farm, which mentors young people to contribute to their communities via agriculture and food.
“It’s nice to have a platform to do what I want to do,” says Guzman. “The kitchen team we’ve built is a big part of any personal success. Omar (Ansari) and Surly have afforded us a great opportunity here, and it’s not wasted.” (Bio courtesy of Surly Brewing Co.)