JD Fratzke was born in the Mississippi River Valley of southeastern Minnesota in the last quarter of the twentieth century. He began working in restaurants as a teenager and is now the chef and co-owner of Bar Brigade in Saint Paul, MN. JD lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Lisa, a painter, and their daughter, Nina Jeann. He continues to dedicate his life to kindness, deliciousness and a fierce desire to be outside.
Brad Leone is the Test Kitchen Manager at Bon Appétit in New York City. Fermentation and offbeat methods of cooking have been his passion both at work and home as documented in his video series It's Alive! Born in northern New Jersey (the pretty part), Brad grew up hunting and fishing with his dad and got to spend a lot of time in the woods. Now he channels his love of cooking into keeping up an eye-popping pantry at Bon Appétit, nowadays full of projects such as homemade miso, kombucha, and a Mexican fermented pineapple brew called Tepache.
After an enjoyable childhood in Michigan, Brian Merkel hit the road. Artist-turned-meat-guy, his path has led him to Portland, Detroit, New York and San Francisco. He is now one of many men to have followed a woman back to Minnesota. These days you can find him as the in-house butcher at Tullibee, making sausage and charcuterie and tending to his custom dry-aging program. To Brian, the craft of butchery and charcuterie is a creative practice that's rich in cultural history. He prefers cold winters, freshwater fish, old country music, dry riesling, sour beer and a stiff boning knife. When he says heʼll put a ham in your chimney, heʼs not speaking in metaphor.
Lukas Leaf spends his free time fishing, foraging, hunting, camping and cooking his way through the great outdoors. He serves on the board of the MN chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, is the chef of Modern Carnivore and works as the Sporting Outreach Coordinator for Sportsmen For The Boundary Waters. He was the executive chef at Al Vento restaurant in Minneapolis for 11 years.