The Minnesota Restaurant Association (MRA) has selected Peg Rasmussen, of Peg’s Countryside Café in Medina, for membership in the Minnesota Hospitality Hall of Fame.
She was one of five outstanding individuals/companies to receive awards at a Nov. 19 ceremony in St. Paul. Tim Murray, of Murray’s Restaurant in Minneapolis was named Restaurateur of the Year and Hubbell House, Restaurant of the Year. Premier Restaurant Equipment Company, Minneapolis, received the Allied Vendor of the Year Award. The Legislative Advocate of the Year Award went to Jill Skogheim, 5-8 Restaurants, Twin Cities.
Minnesota Hospitality Hall of Fame inductees are considered “legends” of the Minnesota restaurant industry, said Dan McElroy, MRA spokesperson. “Peg Rasmussen’s restaurant career spans almost four decades; her impact on her industry and community is immense.”
With a background as a social worker, Rasmussen had no business experience or culinary prowess when she purchased a diner on Highway 55 in Medina in 1975. She quickly realized how much she needed to learn, taking accounting classes and eventually earning a business degree.
Rasmussen noted that she was part of the local food movement from way back, relying on area farmers, egg collectors and butchers for many of her supplies. She has also run a separate catering facility since 2009. Two years ago, she and her 55-seat diner celebrated 35 years in business, with specials from its original 1975 menu, including burger baskets, chicken dinners and meatloaf dinners, all at special prices.
During her acceptance speech, Rasmussen thanked her employees, noting that at numerous times she had three generations of family working at the Countryside Café.
She was inducted into the Hall of Fame by Peter Mihajlov of Parasole Restaurant Holdings, himself a Hall of Fame honoree from 2007. The two served together on the Minnesota Restaurant Association board of directors for many years, with Rasmussen serving as president in 2005.
She is currently a board member for the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation and also active in the Twin West Chamber of Commerce, Wayzata Schools’ Community Education Board and the Interfaith Outreach Employment Committee.
For many years Rasmussen has run Countryside Kid Project, where she hands control of her restaurant to area sixth-graders for two nights each year. During the two nights, kids learn valuable business skills, such as budgeting, food handling and customer service.
In 1996, General Mills selected Rasmussen as one of 75 women across the country to have her likeness incorporated into a composite image of an updated Betty Crocker.
“I am thrilled to be a member of the Hospitality Hall of Fame,” Rasmussen said. “I learned so much from those who preceded me in this honor,” she said. “But I also commend the younger generation because I’ve learned so much from them in recent years.”