Chef Kristian Niemi hails from a small mining town in northern Minnesota where his family taught him the importance of food from a very young age. After high school, he traveled the world as a Farsi translator for the US Army, soaking in the culinary traditions of every place he visited. After his military service, he moved to Charleston, SC, where he studied Pre-Med and began his life in restaurants by taking a job at Ferante’s in the historic Market. He then transferred to the University of Minnesota and worked at the famous Dakota Bar & Grill under Chef Ken Goff (now an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu) who instilled an appreciation for locality of ingredients and encouraged him to attend culinary school.
Upon graduation from St. Paul College, he returned to Columbia, SC, and shortly after arriving opened Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Cafe with two partners. After the success of Mr. Friendly’s, he opened a Spanish tapas bar, Gervais & Vine, before helping open Solstice Kitchen and Wine Bar. In 2009, he opened his rustic, wood-fired Italian restaurant, Rosso Trattoria, and in 2014 opened Bourbon, a whiskey bar and Cajun-Creole Kitchen. His next restaurant, Black Rooster, is under construction and will be “Frenchish”.
In addition to being on the board of Slow Food and an advisor to Columbia College’s new hospitality program, he is also responsible for helping start the city’s largest farmers market, the Soda City Market, which began with just eight farmers in the courtyard of Gervais & Vine, and now commands three full blocks of Main Street every Saturday morning. He is also Chef-Partner of the Farm to Table Event Company which specializes in events centered around locally-produced foods, mostly cooked over open fires. He was the on-air chef for WLTX for seven years and has appeared in two seasons of Carolina Cooking, Making it Grow, and Preserving Traditions with Chef John Folse. When he isn’t plying his trade, you can find him playing hockey, riding his motorcycle through the back roads of SC, or traveling the world.
Chef & Owner
Columbia, South Carolina