Cajun inspired Mr. Paul’s Supper Club wants to show Edina a good time. Located in the recently developed portion of Edina’s 50th and France business district known as Nolan Mains, this hot, new restaurant concept is inspired by chef Tommy Begnaud’s desire to provide guests, “a celebration of food, drinks, music, laughter, love, and most importantly, fun,” he says.
Begnaud is well-known on the local food scene, a former chef at trendy eateries like Butcher and the Boar, Coup d’état, Café Maude and Town Talk Diner. Mr. Paul’s is Begnaud’s first foray into restaurant ownership, along with a team of partners and colleagues, and is an exciting opportunity for him to combine his longtime dream with his Louisiana heritage and create a lively atmosphere that welcomes guests with the spirit and flavors of all things New Orleans.
The 7,000-square-foot restaurant features a large main bar and lounge, several uniquely designed seating areas arranged at various elevations, a smaller back bar for private occasions, a large outdoor patio and a restaurant-within-a-restaurant side-door emporium called Mr. Paul’s Po’boys and Jams that’s home to a takeout counter and is also a place to enjoy festive slushies, candy machines and balloons! The entirety of Mr. Paul’s Supper Club’s eclectic and electric vibe is an homage to the restaurant’s namesake, Mr. Paul, Begnaud’s grandfather, who was, “world renowned in his own mind and had a larger-than-life personality. He was my inspiration for cooking since I was a kid,” Begnaud says.
According to Begnaud, Mr. Paul met his wife in Minnesota while visiting a friend that he’d met while serving our country in World War II. He married her and settled here for a time, but the marriage wouldn’t last, and Mr. Paul, ever the “duck out of water” in Minnesota, was drawn back to his large family and Louisiana roots, where Cajun culture centers on music and food. For Begnaud, who was born and raised in Minnesota, this meant regular road trip vacations to the southland. “We were a family with five boys and not much money,” Begnaud says. “So, we drove to visit grandpa in Louisiana. And every time, I fell more and more in love with the culture, where it seems everyone was always getting together, and my grandpa opened his doors once a week or more for some event. He would cook jambalaya or do a crawfish boil. There would be dancing into the wee hours. It was so great, always a party, and I was always drawn to that communal aspect, the smiles, the joy … being around that is so much a part of my being and who I am and what I want to bring to Mr. Paul’s Supper Club.”
Like many creative-minded entrepreneurs, it was an unexpected and winding journey that brought Begnaud toward his destiny of restauranteur. He grew up across town in Woodbury and found a job he loved after high school working in construction. Then, when his friends came back to town on breaks from college, he wondered if he should get serious about getting a degree. But that could wait. Instead, he moved to Colorado to briefly live a bit of that mountain ski-bum life before moving back to Minnesota with intentions of matriculation. Except, when he returned, he was offered work in a family business building golf courses. Begnaud says, “I was 22 or 23 years old and making good money. I bought a boat and a motorcycle. Finishing a degree became the furthest thing from my mind.” But, when his uncle and employer sold the business, Begnaud faced a decision—what did he really want to do?
“I wanted to open a restaurant,” says Begnaud. “I had a family member who was in the bar/restaurant business, and that seemed like a cool lifestyle.” He started trying to get investors to open a bar/restaurant, but relatives told him he didn’t know enough about it, that it’s not glamorous, not great hours, that when others are playing, you’re working, you’re always on your feet and it can be stressful. Ultimately, the advice was for him to go learn the business first. What they said, “Made me want it more,” says Begnaud, who enrolled in culinary school and “learned everything I could through a program for hospitality management … I thought the sky was the limit at any hotel in the world. Then, I got into a kitchen in 2007 at Town Talk Diner, and that changed my life immediately,” he says.
“I was drawn to it, how it runs, the culture, the stories of every server wanting to show people a good time. I was hooked … I left the management program and decided to be a chef and restauranteur. I dove in headfirst and haven’t looked back. I worked up to 70 hours a week, and within two years, I became an executive chef.” Begnaud notes the interconnectedness of the Twin Cities restaurant scene and how it’s led him to one opportunity after another, eventually landing him at the Butcher and the Boar, one of highest revenue restaurants in the Metro area. He says, “It was a great experience and don’t regret it. I cooked for a ton of high-profile people, a Super Bowl and a Final Four.” Then, the pandemic hit, and Begnaud was forced to answer the question faced by many, “What’s next?” He says, “Those who didn’t have the fire jumped ship to go someplace else. Those with the fire have dug deep and are trying to figure out what to do better when it comes to offering a better quality of life for staff. I’m in a better space with an opportunity to do my own thing and show people this entertainment part but also change the model and give people some time off, breathers, paid vacations, etc. That’s never been around [in the restaurant business] because margins are typically too tight. We are at a good point in the industry in Minnesota, and many are re-evaluating the hospitality model moving forward. There’s a changing of the guard. People work really hard and deserve to make a good living.”
Begnaud also believes people deserve to enjoy life, and he’s excited to create a place where families can gather for anniversaries or birthday parties, enjoy a great steak or be adventurous and try his Creole etouffee. He says, “Not enough Minnesotans have learned to enjoy crawfish, which, if prepared well, is so succulent and tender. Mr. Paul’s Supper Club is like a chop house with the spirit of New Orleans, a little fancy, but still approachable with craft cocktails, created by beverage wizard Nick Kosevich, at a level Edina hasn’t seen. There will be high-end steaks and lamb chops, but also bleu crab beignets and fried catfish with chili vinaigrette.”
Begnaud spent a pandemic year doing menu research and development in his home kitchen, cooking and delivering food to friends, all of whom are excited to finally see and sample the actual menu at Mr. Paul’s. We’re excited, too! And don’t sleep on Mr. Paul’s Po’boys and Jams, that whimsical mini side-door restaurant where you can order traditional shrimp or fried oyster Po’boys or the “not yet famous, but soon to be” cheese curd Po’boy along with house made sodas all in an atmosphere of magical fun and creativity. Mr. Paul’s Supper Club may be the antidote to the doldrum days of late because the entire experience emanates from what Mr. Paul was fond of saying, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” (Let the good times roll!)
Our lightning round with Mr. Paul’s chef Tommy Begnaud
First food memory?
My grandfather and great uncle cooking jambalaya.
Holiday dish you always look forward to?
Most overhyped/overused ingredient right now?
Scallops, even though I love them. Everybody has them on the menu.
Most undervalued ingredient?
Sweet potato or vinegar
What’s a staple in your fridge at home?
Two words you hope diners will use to describe Mr. Paul’s Supper Club?