Consistently recognized for his culinary innovations, David Vlach is a lifelong student of food. His passion has rewarded him with an impressive resume built in fine dining establishments in the Twin Cities and on both U.S. coasts.
A Twin Cities native, Vlach began his culinary career as a teenage line cook. During his freshman year at college, Vlach left his hometown and the University of Minnesota and followed his passion for food to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
While studying at the institute, Vlach was awarded an externship under renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson at Restaurant Aquavit in New York City. Drawn to the avant-garde cuisine and intensity of the kitchen, Vlach returned to Aquavit after graduation.
With Samuelsson’s blessing, Vlach left New York in 2001 for The French Laundry in Yountville, California. Under the tutelage of famous chef Thomas Keller, Vlach continued his fine-dining education in one of the world’s most prestigious restaurants. Working in Keller’s influential kitchen imbued Vlach with skill and ambition. After two years, he returned to Minneapolis to explore opening a restaurant of his own.
In 2003, Vlach helped open Restaurant Levain as chef de cuisine under Executive Chef Stewart Woodman. Levain later earned four stars out of four from the Star Tribune. In 2005, Vlach helped open Wolfgang Puck’s highly anticipated restaurant 20.21 at the renovated Walker Art Center. 20.21 would later earn three and a half stars from the Star Tribune.
In 2006, Vlach opened Town Talk Diner in Minneapolis as executive chef. His menu drew from classic American diner fare, which he updated and refined to incorporate modern culinary technique and high-quality local ingredients. Vlach attracted widespread acclaim to Town Talk with highlights such as the much-loved pulled pork sandwich and frickles, the more refined daily fish specials, and innovative seasonal entrees.
Town Talk was one of the best new restaurants of 2006 according to the Star Tribune, City Pages and Minnesota Monthly. The Star Tribune named Vlach one of its “Four Chefs to Watch” the same year. National media, including Bon Appétit, the Washington Post, and Food & Wine magazine, also recognized Town Talk.
In 2008, Vlach moved to Barcelona, Spain, to pursue his love of traditional and modern Spanish cuisine. He staged in the Michelin-starred kitchen of Comerç 24 and Arola at the Hotel Arts Barcelona.
In 2009, Vlach returned to the Twin Cities and reunited with chef Stewart Woodman at Heidi’s as sous chef. He worked there happily until the restaurant burned down and was forced to close.
Dedicated to local, sustainably produced food and to nurturing relationships with farmers, Vlach is now chef and owner of Custom Cuisine, a catering company that also offers technique classes to educate home chefs. In his spare time, Vlach enjoys sharing his culinary knowledge at Twin Cities cooking schools — his classes fill up quickly. He has also served as a research and development consultant for General Mills.
Vlach received first place, chef par excellence, at the 2010 Minnesota Pork Board’s Taste of Elegance competition. Vlach represented Minnesota at the National Taste of Elegance in Baltimore and earned the premium chef award with his spiced slow-cooked pork shank with gremolata and Black Beluga lentil tomato stew.
Most recently, Vlach won the 2012 Emmi Roth USA Gruyere Recipe Contest for Foodservice Professionals. The judges lauded his Grand Cru Gruyere ravioli with Swiss chard, apple and sweet potato sauce finished with Kaltbach cave-aged Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC.