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kitchen by committee

food & the future fantastic

whatever it takes




Inspired Food Culture | Saint Louis | MARCH 2014 | FREE



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Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


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Inspired Food Culture | Saint Louis

MARCH 2014 from the staff


from the PUBLIsher

spotlighting st. louis chefs.


What’s online this month.

| 10 |

feast faVes

Our staff and contributors share inspired ideas for tasteful living in st. louis. coLUmNs

| 18 |

oNe oN oNe

Catching up with Michael Del Pietro in anticipation of the opening of The salted Pig.

| 20 |

the mIx

Mastering maceration is the first step to making infused alcohol at home.

| 22 |

oN the sheLf

new and notable in beer, spirits and wine.

| 24 |

mystery shoPPer

Buy it and try it: mahlab.

| 26 |

chef’s NoteBook

Chef Cassy Vires’ quest to source ethical veal.

| 28 |

gadget a-go-go

We put four immersion blenders to the test.

| 30 |

meNU oPtIoNs

Bright, vegetarian-friendly cauliflower and watercress soup lightens up early spring.

Losses up to $500 reimbursed in future rewards.

| 62 |

the Last BIte

Writer Valeria Turturro klamm opts for dessert first with beignets at Brasserie.

COVER PHOTOGRAPHY Of CHARRED EGGPlAnT, BEluGA lEnTils, kEfiR AnD CHiVEs AT OliO (P. 32) BY Jennifer Silverberg TABlE Of COnTEnTs PHOTOGRAPHY Of flATBREAD AT OliO BY Jennifer Silverberg Restrictions may apply; see mychoice® Center for details and official rules. Management reserves the right to cancel, change or modify this promotion at any time in accordance with Missouri Gaming Regulations. Participants must be 21 years of age or older to take part in this promotion. Must be a mychoice member. Offer not valid for persons on Missouri Disassociated Persons or Excluded lists or who have been otherwise excluded from from Lumière Place Casino or any other properties owned by Pinnacle Entertainment. Gambling problem? Call 1-888-BETSOFF. ©2014 Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


march 2014


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kitchen by committee 39 Not valid for persons on Missouri Disassociated Persons or Excluded lists or who have been otherwise excluded from Lumière Place Casino or any other properties owned by Pinnacle Entertainment. Must be age 21 or older to gamble. Gambling problem? Call 1-888-BETSOFF. Š2014 Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Inspired Food Culture

march 2014


Enjoy Luxury To Fit Your Budget CHOICE OF COLORS




Volume 5

| Issue 3 | March 2014

Publisher and Editor, Catherine Neville Managing Editor, Print Content, Liz Miller Managing Editor, Digital Content, Kristin Brashares

M I C R O F I B E R FA B R I C M O D E R N S E C T I O N A L $499

Contact Us Feast Media, 900 N. Tucker Blvd., 4th Floor St. Louis, MO 63101

Art Director, Lisa Allen

Advertising Inquiries Kelly Klein, 314.340.8562

Vice President of Advertising, Donna Bischoff


Contributing Editor, Shannon Cothran Made in America

Proofreader, Christine Wilmes






Free Layaway! Until Tax Refund

No Credit Check PlanSelect Your





Items and Tak Take Home or Deliv Delivery Arr Arranged.




Contributing Writers Brandon Chuang, Shannon Cothran, Pat Eby Chad Michael George, Kyle Harsha, Valeria Turturro Klamm, Lucy Schwetye, Matt Seiter Michael Sweeney, Cassy Vires, Shannon Weber Contributing Photographers Jonathan Gayman, Demond Meek, Jennifer Silverberg, Steve Truesdell Feast TV producers: Catherine Neville, Kristin Brashares production partner: Pounds Media contributing Videographers: Brian Benton Max Campbell, James Jackson, John Jacobsen Jered Schneider, Jordan Schneider, Charles Thomas



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Look for this icon. It tells you which articles are part of Feast TV! Watch Feast TV on the Watch the March episode on the Nine Network (Channel 9) at 2pm on Sat., March 1, and 1pm on Mon., March 3. Feast TV will also air on the nineCREATE channel periodically throughout the month.

FEAST EVENTS A Taste of Fiction Fri., March 7, 6:30 to 8:30pm; pricing varies; Central Library

A Taste of Fiction is a one-of-a-kind culinary event that engages the finest pastry chefs in the region to interpret literary works in pastry. Proceeds will benefit culinary programming and the culinary collection of the St. Louis Public Library.

KMOX Food Fight March 17, 18, 24 and 31; Scape $60 per round;

Join us for a series of four events at Scape featuring a cook-off between eight of the top chefs in St. Louis. With each Food Fight, chefs will have the opportunity to present a new concept to guests who will not only taste what they have to offer but also watch as the chefs battle it out in the kitchen.

Feast Your Eyes Tue., March 25; Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis,

In partnership with the talented team at The Libertine, CAM and Feast present a tour of the shows followed by an intimate multicourse meal inspired by the exhibitions.

In this month’s Feast TV, we take you into the kitchen at Blood & Sand with chef Nicholas Martinkovic (pictured above) as he prepares some of the striking menu items he’s debuted at the Downtown restaurant. You’ll also spend a night on the line with Nate Hereford, chef de cuisine of Niche; learn how Ben Poremba and Josh Charles collaborate at Elaia; and find out how Brian Hardesty runs the Element kitchen by committee.

We didn’t plan it to be this way. Chalk it up to happy coincidence that just about

Schnucks Cooks Cauliflower and Watercress Soup Wed., March 26, 6pm; Schnucks Cooks Cooking School $40, or 314.909.1704

Join publisher Catherine Neville in the kitchen and make a meal including vegetarian-friendly cauliflower and watercress soup with roasted garlic purée.

every chef we highlight in this, our first annual Chefs Issue, has either been named a 2014 James Beard Foundation

21st Annual Dining Out For Life

Award semifinalist or works for one of those fine chefs. In fact, six St. Louis chefs were given personal nods by the Beard

Thu., April 24,

organization this year. Five received Best Chef: Midwest semifinalist nominations – Gerard Craft, Kevin Nashan, Josh Galliano, Kevin Willmann and Ben Poremba. The sixth chef, Rick Lewis, is a Rising Star Chef of the Year semifinalist. And Taste, Craft’s temple to tippling, is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Bar Program category. Simply put, St. Louis is an exceptional dining city. At the heart of all of this amazing food are the people who make it happen: the chefs. Farmers can grow pristine veggies and artisans can make outstanding cheeses, but when a skilled chef manipulates ingredients into a beautifully composed dish, the potential in those products is unlocked. We live in the Midwest, the heart of the nation, surrounded by famers’ fields and vineyards. This is where some of the country’s best food is not only grown, this is where some of the country’s best chefs produce plate after sophisticated, beautiful plate. As the energy in the culinary industry continues to grow, there are increasing opportunities for ambitious chefs to make their

Grab breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the participating restaurants. At least 25 percent of your check will be donated to support the work of Saint Louis Effort for AIDS.

Feast in Napa – New Dates! July 27 to 31, 832.381.2270,

Join publisher Catherine Neville for a luxurious four-night excursion to gorgeous Napa, Calif. The incomparable Solage Calistoga – whose spa was voted No. 1 spa in the Americas and No. 10 in the world – will serve as home base for our group as we tour and taste our way through Napa.

mark, not just in St. Louis, but on a national scale. Creativity and passion are the hallmarks of our region’s food culture and I

Cat’s Picks

consider myself to be very lucky to live here, in a city that understands and produces great eats.

Wednesdays, 8:35am, The BIG 550 KTRS,

Until next time,

Tune in as Feast publisher Catherine Neville chats with host McGraw Milhaven and gives her weekly picks for the best places to eat and drink in the St. Louis area.

FEEDbACK? Catherine Neville Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014



Inspired Food Culture | Saint Louis

The Feed

Dine Out

Dine In


Feast Events


The Magazine


fEAST IN NApA: Join publisher Catherine Neville for a luxurious four-night excursion to gorgeous Napa, Calif., from July 27 to 31. The incomparable Solage Calistoga will serve as home base as we tour and taste our way through Napa. Get the full itinerary in the Events section at

12:00 / 28:29



FEAST TV: Spend a night on the line with Niche’s chef de cuisine (pictured), watch Blood & Sand’s new chef craft inventive dishes, get a rare look at Elaia’s menu collaborations and see how Element runs a kitchen by committee.

SUBSCRIBE NOW: Get our exclusive coverage of the hottest

new spots to grab a bite in St. Louis, announcements on mustattend events and more in our weekly enewsletter! Sign up at

hungry FOR MORE? PHOTOGRAPHy By Demond Meek


Follow FEAST.

Watch our videos.

Pin with us.


ONLINE EXTRAS: Check out our extended conversation with our Next Wave (p. 52) group of chefs. Plus, get The Libertine executive chef Josh Galliano’s tips for surviving a stage, based on Liz Miller’s Rehearsal Dinner (p. 46).


MARCH 2014

Share pics. @feastmag on Instagram

Here’s to firsts: First dates. First loves. First homes. No matter the occasion, Missouri Wines is sure to have a wine to perfectly complement each milestone. So, pour a glass and celebrate the little things and the big moments with Missouri Wines. We’ve created a milestone in Missouri as well. Find out what makes our wines so memorable by exploring over 125 Missouri wineries. Your journey begins at

Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014



| where we’re dining

1500 St. Charles St., Downtown, 314.241.7263


MARCH 2014


Chef Nicholas Martinkovic is making his mark on St. Louis food. Imported from brooklyn to helm the kitchen at Central Table Food Hall, Martinkovic was lured to Blood & Sand in January. Since arriving at the private restaurant and bar, the chef has focused on balancing member expectations (those truffled tots are staying on the menu) with pushing culinary boundaries. Acidity punctuates Martinkovic’s dishes, ensuring flavors that pop. Iberico secreto (a highly marbled cut of the famed Spanish pig), is plated with chestnut purée, sautéed treviso (a mild cousin of radicchio) and orange. Rich, bitter, sweet, tart and nutty. big eye tuna is charred with a blowtorch, cut into ruby rectangles and partnered with shaved apple, togarashi spice, shiso leaf and bone marrow powder, an artful and memorable presentation. In a nod to his Slavic heritage, Martinkovic’s pierogies – potato-stuffed dumplings – are richly garnished with crab, crème fraîche and chives. And in case you’re wondering, b&S does still have memberships available. –C.N.

Jennifer Silverberg

blood & sand


| WHErE WE’rE drINkINg

picklebacks @ quincy street bistro WRiTTEn by kyle Harsha

Hand Crafted Coffees Importing Fine Coffees from 20 Countries

At first glance, the idea looks like a typo or something that first appeared in the mind of a beer-addled frat boy. Take a shot of booze and follow it with a shot of pickle juice. “Pickle juice? Are you serious?” is typically the first reaction. yes. This is the pickleback, and it is the newest shot trend at local bars.


Leading the pickleback charge is the staff at Quincy Street Bistro, the neighborhood eatery in South City that has been gaining much-deserved attention since Rick Lewis – who was named a James beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the year semifinalist in February – took over the kitchen in 2012. According to Lewis, some bar regulars started asking for the concoction after they tried it “somewhere in the northeast.” Lewis poured them a shot of well bourbon with a chaser of his housemade pickle brine, and it was an immediate hit. The combination quickly became a favorite among the Quincy Street bistro staff and the bar’s late-night crowd, which often consists of just-off-the-clock crew members of other local bars and restaurants.

Full Service Coffeehouse & Restaurant Supplier Fourth Generation Family Owned Coffee Roasters Since 1930

Picklebacks at Quincy Street are made with cheap bourbon, Jameson or just about any liquor you desire. because of the surging demand for the drink, Lewis has added a special to the menu, the Tall, neat & Pickled, where $9 gets you a shot of locally made Mad buffalo Distillery Moonshine, housemade pickle juice and a 25-ounce can of busch beer. The combination of moonshine and brine is an onslaught to the taste buds like nothing you have ever experienced. Forget the subtleties of pairings (although the tart, acidic nature of the juice does diminish the burn of the moonshine), this is something to drink when you are out to have a foot-stomping good time. Wash it down with the busch, and you will be ready for another.



6931 Gravois Ave., Princeton Heights, 314.353.1588,



• Maine Lobsters • Jumbo Lump Crabmeat • Dry-Packed Scallops • Jumbo Shrimp • Smoked Salmon • Wide Selection of Oysters & Fish





CONNECT WITH fresh cuts & local ingredients


Steve Truesdell


Kyle Harsha is a certified specialist of wine and certified sommelier with over 20 years’ experience in the food and wine industry. He drinks more wine than he probably ought to.



(314)535-5100 Happy Hour M-F 5-7 $5 appetizers, craft cocktails and wines $2.50 bottles (including local craft selections)


Like FEAST. Follow FEAST. Watch our videos. Pin with us. Share pics.

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Inspired Food Culture

march 2014



| where we’re dininG

goody cafe Pho shops and street stands are omnipresent in Vietnam, serving bowls of the satisfying rice noodle soup filled with spice-driven broth, meat, seafood or tofu and fresh vegetables and herbs. In St. Louis we have an abundance of excellent Vietnamese eateries, the most recent addition being Goody Cafe. The menu at the Central West End restaurant features Vietnamese and Americanized Chinese fare, but the true star is fragrant pho, available in six varieties. Ranging from the classic – rice noodles with thinly sliced beef in deeply flavored broth with fresh herbs and vegetables – to the more adventurous, like the Goody Special pho, where rare beef, beef balls and tendon swim in the same comforting broth with noodles, herbs and vegetables. Spring rolls at Goody are simple pleasures: crisp, aromatic basil, cucumber and carrot give crunch, while shrimp and rice-paper wrappers deliver nice chew. Drinks include tapioca pearl-studded bubble tea in flavors like jasmine, honeydew and strawberry and slushes such as mango and avocado. –L.M.


Jonathan Gayman

3949 Lindell blvd., Central West End 314.814.8074


MARCH 2014


| Food stuFF

nola noshes This year Mardi Gras festivities fall on Tues., March 4, which means we’ll be craving New Orleans-inspired eats in the days and weeks that follow. Topping our list are locally made boudin pudding sausage, fresh beignets and seafood gumbo, each offering a different bite of New Orleans flavor. – L.M.

Gift Cards Available!


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MULTIPLE COURSES & COCKTAILS MARCH “WESTROSPECTIVE” Promoting the premier of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

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enhanced by a delicious Mushroom Burgundy sauce, creamy garlic mashed potatoes and Rose Bud Salad. Conveniently located in Kirkwood Dinner Hours: Tues.-Sun. 5 p.m.


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Tenacious Eats partners with Apple Knockers Hard Cider MARCH 12

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou MARCH 19 & 20

The Royal Tenenbaums + 1oth anniversary special showing MEAN GIRLS on MARCH 26 ALL SHOWS at MEYER’S GROVE —RESERVATIONS— Tenacious Eats

133 West Clinton Place St. Louis, MO 63122 314-965-9005

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1601 S. Brentwood Brentw Blvd. ood, Missouri Brentwood 4.968.7744 P: 314.968.

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| 1 | Boudin pudding sausage made by Schubert’s Packing Co. in Millstadt, Ill., $6.49/ pound (1½ pounds per package); Baumann’s Fine Meats, 8829 Manchester Road, Brentwood, 314.968.3080, | 2 | Signature beignets, $4/three; Café Ventana, 3919 West Pine Blvd., Central West End, 314.531.7500, | 3 | Seafood gumbo made with shrimp, oysters and catfish, $7.49/ bowl (Friday weekly special); Riverbend Restaurant & Bar, 701 Utah St., Soulard, 314.664.8443, PHOTOGRAPHy By Jonathan Gayman Inspired Food Culture

march 2014




smalls tea & coffee Lisa Govro first fell in love with herbal tea at a yoga ashram in Arizona. She started out as a student seeking certification to teach yoga, but quickly fell in love with the all-natural food she ate during training. When the program ended, she stuck around to apprentice with the head chef, who taught her the restorative properties of whole foods. By 2012, Govro had leveraged that knowledge into a mobile business, The ReTrailer, bringing herbal teas to the streets of St. Louis. Last month, Govro expanded her operation to include a brick-and-mortar shop with Smalls Tea & Coffee. “The thing about the trailer that was so sweet and special for people was that you were taking a step out of your day into a dream land, essentially,” Govro says. “It was really about providing an experience and an opportunity for people to take a break. I feel like the space that we have for Smalls also provides that incubating feel. It’s so tiny, welcoming and comforting. You walk in and you feel sort of instantly embraced.” The diminutive shop offers Govro’s entire line of herbal teas and serves eats from Red Fox Baking & Catering and Whisk: A Sustainable Bakeshop. Govro says she’s currently experimenting with preparing herbal sodas in flavors like lavender, dandelion and Burdock root. In the coming months, Govro will debut a new chai concentrate for retail and wholesale purchase that she developed with Justin Leszcz of YellowTree Farm. “I have a handful of regulars from the trailer that are really devout drinkers of my turmeric tea,” Govro says. “To be able to provide that every day for people is a reminder of where this all has come from. Being able to provide a community service, educating people and having a fun dialogue about really beautiful, cute, floral herbs every day is what Smalls is all about.” – L.M. 2619½ Cherokee St., Cherokee Business District


MARCH 2014





| 1 | The core offering at Smalls is loose-leaf herbal teas in imaginative combinations like Don’t Chai Know, made with a blend of organic tulsi, red rooibos tea, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise and peppercorn; Drop It Like It’s Hot Tea, made with a blend of organic hibiscus, tulsi and orange peel; and Mom’s Bedtime Story, made with a blend of organic chamomile, jasmine, lemongrass, spearmint and valerian root. | 2 | Govro serves a selection of pour-over coffees at Smalls made with coffee from Goshen Coffee Co. In the future, she hopes to serve all-natural herbal sodas and herbal cocktails. | 3 | Aside from serving fresh cups of tea and coffee, Govro stocks tea brewing gadgets such as tea infusers, expanding the selection already available through The ReTrailer.

Steve Truesdell


Everyone is Irish, on St. Patrick's Day.

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MARCH 2014


| whAT we ’re buying


chef’s choice |1|

In this month’s chef-focused issue, instead of sharing what new products we’re eyeing, we turned to a handful of local chefs to find out what gadgets they rely on in their restaurant kitchens. – L.M.


|2| |5|



|7| |8|

| 1 | Arti glass kitchen digital scale by Escali in solar yellow, $34.95; Kitchen Conservatory, 8021 Clayton Road, Clayton, 314.862.2665, “We use [digital scales] a lot for portioning out recipes. It’s way quicker, in my opinion, for ingredient conversion. And because it’s way more durable – it can take a beating.” –Rick Lewis, executive chef, Quincy Street Bistro | 2 | Bamboo tapered rolling pin, $19.95; Cornucopia, 107 N. Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood, “Hands down, my French-style tapered rolling pin. We fight over it at the bakery – the heft of the pin and the longer length are difficult to find.” –Christy Augustin, owner, Pint Size Bakery & Coffee | 3 | Waring Seven-Inch Big Stix Immersion Blender, $79.95; Session Fixture Co., 6044 Lemay Ferry Road, South County, 314.487.2670, “I use my hand blender for anything and everything


MArCh 2014

that needs to be blended. I especially love the tool’s ability to be used for mixing hot items, particularly in making my Osh soup. After 30 years, this is [my] must have tool [I] cannot do without.” –Hamishe Bahrami, owner and chef, Café Natasha | 4 | Kitchener Five-Pound Sausage Stuffer, $99.99; Northern Tool and Equipment, 233 Arnold Crossroads Center, Arnold, 636.333.0484, “Since I enjoy charcuterie, one of my favorite kitchen tools is our sausage stuffer. I use it for all the sausages we make in-house, including our chorizo and fresh Toulouse. It’s easy and fast to set up and you can easily control the pressure and speed since it’s hand cranked.” –Jon Dreja, executive chef, Franco | 5 | PitmasterIQ IQ120 Kit, $199.95; PitmasterIQ, 1446 Hoff Industrial Dr., O’Fallon, Mo., 636.447.7974, pitmasteriq. com. “PitmasterIQ out of O’Fallon makes temperature control [tools] for barbecue grills

that are really amazing. [The IQ120 is] basically a computer with a fan that hooks to your barbecue grill, and as your temp falls it blows onto your charcoal and helps it keep a steady temperature. This thing will hold your pit at whatever temperature you want for hours on end; it’s absolutely incredible.” –Mike Johnson, owner, SugarFire Smoke House | 6 | KitchenAid Artisan Series Five-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer in pistachio, $349.99; Williams-Sonoma, multiple locations, “My KitchenAid mixer is such a multifaceted tool. I can make bread, sausage or cream with it.” –Carl McConnell, owner and executive chef, Stone Soup Cottage | 7 | Silicone scraper spatula, $6.95; Kitchen Conservatory. “When making mousses, sauces, dressings, dough, batters, etc., getting every last bit [in the bowl] can only be accomplished [with] a bowl scraper. Bowl scraper[s] save a lot of money over time by

bringing food loss down and ensuring consistent cooking and baking when scaling recipes.” –Patrick Thirion, co-owner, Peel Wood Fired Pizza | 8 | Microplane Classic Series Premium Zester/Grater in green, $14.99; Bed, Bath & Beyond, multiple locations, bedbathandbeyond. com. “Of all of the gadgets I have at my disposal, nothing seems to be more versatile that my zester. I try to zest citrus into almost everything because I think it brings a brightness to savory and sweet dishes. I also use it for grating ginger, garlic, spices, hard cheeses, chocolate and even finishing salts like pink Himalayan that gets grated over seafood.” –Ryan Buettner, executive chef, Vin de Set AdditionAl props supplied by CornuCopiA:

Fiestaware, blue Le Creuset saucepot, dish towels, Le Creuset mixing bowl, cast-iron mini casserole dish, biscuit cutters. PHOTOGRAPHy By Jonathan Gayman

Haveli indian Res ta u R a n t You are cordially invited to

“Get a taste of NOLA without ever leaving STL.” indian restaurant

Lunch Buffet

11 AM to 2:30 PM Tuesday thru Sunday DINNER 5 PM to 9 PM Tuesday thru Sunday

B I ST R O & MUSI C H O USE 5 12 No rt h E uc l i d Cent ral W e st E n d 3 14 .3 67 . 3 6 4 4

Dinner Buffet 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM ONLY ON Tuesdays and Sundays.

Come enjoy the finest flavors of Northern India

Open 11a m- 1 am 7 day s

Me n u S er v e d 1 1 a m - M i d n i g ht

Visit our site for a live music schedule: e v a ng e li ne s s t l . c om

Call (314) 423-7300 for Reservations | Or Stop by at 9720 Page Ave. • Overland MO 63132 •

sOLE SURVIVOR delight your senses with the aroma of REAL leather Steve Rye, merchant & designer of fine leather goods is back in the LOOP! Join us for a party: Thursday, March 20th 4-9 pm

6148 Delmar Blvd, st. louis, mo (across from the Pageant) open regularly

Tues-Sat 10-5 beginning March 1st

contact: 618-234-0214 or email

DIY Beer and Wine Kits We offer beer and wine kits and supplies, cheese kits,sausage & jerky supplies, Full line of distilling supplies and equipment! One wine kit makes up to 30 bottles of wine. Gift Certificates Available. We will also ship your supplies! Makes a Great Gift! Also available Gourmet Coffees, Coffee Roasters and Grinders

10% OFF Purchase OVer $10 If ordering online use code: FEAST in the coupon section of the shopping cart. WE MOVED! 1 Mile South of Old Location.

It’s Worth the Drive!

10663 Business 21 (by subway) • hillsboro • 636.797.8155 •

Celebrating10 Years of Sweet Memories! Sarah’s Cake Shop has proven that we deliver more than just a cake but a veritable centerpiece to your wedding. Our cakes and desserts bring smiles of joy, they are topic of conversation and most importantly, they create memories that last for years to come!

Monday & Tuesday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.

10 Clarkson Wilson Centre • Chesterfield • 636.728.1140 • Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


one on one

MiCHAel Del PietRo

owneR, tHe SAlteD Pig WrITTen By Valeria Turturro Klamm |

PHOTOgrAPHy By Jonathan Gayman

For Michael Del Pietro – the man behind three Sugo’s Spaghetterias, two Babbo’s Spaghetterias, Via Vino, Tavolo V and the forthcoming The Salted Pig – it’s always just a matter of time before his next restaurant idea takes flight. But what keeps him going as a restaurateur? “I love my hair on fire,” Del Pietro jokes. “I love seeing people happy. I love seeing the people that work with me excited. I truly love what I do. I wish I didn’t – I’d be relaxing a bit more.” Were there differences in the process of opening The Salted Pig from your other restaurants? Absolutely. I’ve never worked a deal where there were three different elements to work with as far as the building owner, the landowner and the last tenant. I was dealing with three people instead of one. So it was a totally different process. I also brought in a working partner, Ken Dennison, who is a barbecue guru and became a good friend through this process. He’s a very clever person in the kitchen who I’m excited to work with. The Salted Pig is a departure from the Italian food at your other restaurants. What will the menu look like? There won’t be pasta, rice, garlic – well, there may be some garlic – but there won’t be any meatballs or things of that sort in the restaurant. I’m trying to do Southern comfort food – but healthier. I don’t want everything to be made with lard, cream and butter. Barbecue will be an element of our menu. Some type of fried chicken will be a frontrunner on the menu. We’ll also feature shrimp and grits with sausage, fried oysters with buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing, green vegetables with house-cured bacon. What are you serving at the bar? Bourbons are huge right now, so we’re serving those and mixed drinks. The craft beers are big, but I am a diehard St. Louisan and believe in Anheuser-Busch so we’re serving A-B InBev beer. Wines are a big focal point for us – domestic wines from California, Oregon and definitely Missouri. Will the menu be changing frequently? To a certain extent, the public dictates what works and doesn’t. There will be a seasonal change of what’s available, whether it’s watermelon salad with arugula and honey in the summer or beets in the fall. What spurred your interest in Southern cuisine? I think it’s a hot, hot cuisine in America. It has a comfort food feel. I think people love fried chicken but don’t want to do fried chicken at their house, or they love barbecue but don’t want to do it at home. What are you most excited

The Salted Pig 731 South Lindbergh Blvd., Frontenac

about? I’m more nervous than excited, but I’m excited about the whole concept. Southern food is a new cuisine for me.


MARCH 2014

Visit to read the full interview with Michael Del Pietro.

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618-355-9860 Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


the mix


StOry aNd reCiPe By Matt seiter PhOtOGraPhy By Jonathan gayman

Fruit-flavored alcohol is prevalent on the market today, but most bottles are flavored with synthetic ingredients. Natural versions of flavored alcohol made with fruits, berries, herbs and vegetables can easily be prepared at home through the process of maceration, or coating fruit with sugar to draw out the natural oils, intensifying flavors. For veggie infusions, follow the basic recipe below, but substitute a vegetable and a combination 1/8 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to macerate for at least 30 minutes. Otherwise, the process is the same. Below is a cheat sheet outlining varieties of alcohol that pair well with herbs and produce. Fruit inFusions

vodka: Citrus, berries, fruits, green olives gin: Grapefruit, lime, orange peels, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, green olives ○ white tequila: Peaches, lime peels, orange peels, strawberries, cherries ○ white rum: Lime and orange peels, raspberries, mangoes, pineapple, unsweetened coconut shavings ○ ○

Veggie inFusions

vodka: Cucumbers, green bell peppers, tomatoes ○ gin: Cucumbers, pickles, green beans ○ white tequila: Jalapeños, habaneros, green bell peppers, tomatillos, cucumbers, tomatoes ○ white rum: Beets (roasted work best), red bell peppers, jalapeños ○

basic infusion recipe Serves | 1 | 1½ 1½ ½ ¼ 1

liter container, glass or plastic cups fresh fruit cup sugar cup water 750ml bottle of liquor

| Preparation | in a 1½-liter container,

Helping Herbs herbs you grow at home – mint, parsley, rosemary, dill, basil, sage, tarragon and more – can be incorporated into booze as a single flavor, but i find they taste best used in conjunction with others. if you want to use them as a single flavor, the infusion is simple. take as much of the herb as possible and insert it into a spirit of your choice, then let it sit – preferably in the sun to brew like a tea. it helps if you rub the leaves before you put them in, as this releases oils that contain rich flavor. if you want to combine ingredients to produce complex flavors, add herbs to fruit or veggie infusions. the following are tried-and-true pairings.

mint: Berries, jalapeños, cucumbers, stone fruits parsley: tomatoes, tomatillos, green and red bell peppers, beets rosemary: Grapefruit, peaches, apricots, strawberries, coconut, pineapple dill: Pickles, green olives, cucumbers, green beans basil: Strawberries, raspberries, oranges, lemons, limes, habaneros, green olives, coconut, mangoes sage: Peaches, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, pineapple, coconut tarragon: Cherries, strawberries, lemons, limes, oranges, green olives, green beans, peaches

Matt Seiter is a co-founder of the United States Bartenders’ Guild’s St. Louis chapter, a member of the national board for the USBG’s MA program and a continuing educator for all desiring knowledge of the craft of mixology. He is a member of Drink Lab and a consultant at Sanctuaria.


MARCH 2014

macerate fruit by combining with sugar for at least 30 minutes. add water and stir until all sugar is diluted. add liquor and stir. allow to sit for 4 to 7 days, stirring once every day; begin tasting after the fourth day. it might be ready or it might need a bit more time. Let sit in a warm area for quicker flavoring. Once you’ve reached your desired flavor, strain off the solids through a fine-mesh strainer; certain fruits that are pulpy (pineapples, apples, pears, mangoes) will need an additional strain through cheesecloth, a clean and damp towel or a damp coffee filter. this secondary filtering might take up to a half hour, but is worth the wait. Once the liquor is fully strained, pour it back into its original container and serve in a cocktail of your choice.

Chi Mangia Bene Vive Bene! "To Eat Well is To Live Well" Proudly Serving Authentic Italian Food in a Family Atmosphere.

Come celebrate Joe’s (Giuseppe) Birthday in the month of March! Try Our Villa Puccini Tosana Wine Paired with Steak Bistacca Pescatore (pictured) Let Us Cater Your Special Occasion Featuring Daily Lunch & Dinner Specials Reservations Recommended, Hours of Operation: Tuesday - Saturday 11am-10pm • Sunday Noon-9pm • Closed Monday

5442 Old Hwy 21• Imperial • 636.942.2405 •

JOIN US! Wine Wednesday: Let Chef Mehmet take you on a culinary adventure with special wine pairings & select bottles half price all day. Thursday: Dine, Drink & Belly Dance with weekly cocktail specials & exciting belly dance performances. Sunday Brunch & Dinner: Enjoy an amazing breakfast menu with our delicious boozy breakfast cocktails & Chef Mehmet's Famous Turkish Fried Chicken. Lunch: Tues-Fri - Dinner: Tues-Sun - Sunday Brunch Happy Hour: Tues-Fri Available for private parties and catering. Turkish Mediterranean Cuisine. Known for our meze (small plates), Lamb Dishes, Fresh Fish and excellent wine selection.

6671 Chippewa Street • St. Louis • 314.645.9919 •

Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


on the shelf



WRITTEN BY Michael Sweeney


WRITTEN BY Chad Michael George

The creator of and founder of St. Louis Craft Beer Week, Michael Sweeney is also the craft beer manager at Lohr Distributing.

Award-winning sommelier and mixologist Chad Michael George is founder of Proof Academy, which covers everything from wine and cocktail list consulting to spirits and mixology education.

BouLevArd BreWinG co.’S PoP-uP SeSSion i.P.A.

Brenne French SinGLe MALt WhiSky

Style: American IPA (4.3% abv) AvAilAble At: Lukas Liquor Superstore, 15921

Manchester Road, Ellisville,; $7.49 (six-pack, 12-oz bottles) PAiring: Shrimp gumbo• Pepper Jack cheese Boulevard created this hop-forward beer to allow those of us who want a big burst of citrusy hops without being weighed down by a lot of alcohol. Thanks to being dryhopped with Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo and Citra hops, there is a huge hop aroma. This beer clocks in at a wonderful 4.3 percent alcohol content, which allows you to keep your wits while discussing if there really is such a thing as a session IPA.

neW hoLLAnd BreWinG’S drAGon’S MiLk Style: Imperial Stout (10% abv) AvAilAble At: Randall’s Wines and Spirits, multiple

locations,; $7.99 (22-oz bottle) PAiringS: Balsamic-glazed pork roast• Dark chocolate ganache

ProvenAnce: France (40% abv) AvAilAble At: The Wine & Cheese Place; multiple locations,; $51.99 try it: Neat, on the rocks or in your favorite whiskey cocktail

On a trip to Cognac, France, whiskey importer Allison Patel stumbled across something special: Brenne’s Single Malt Whisky. The resulting bottlings are all single-barrel runs of a whiskey aged in Limousin oak and finished in used Cognac barrels. There is no age statement, but based on my research, all the whiskeys are at least seven years old, if not older. The lack of an age statement is purely because they are all single barrel bottlings, so the ages would be different on each bottling. The resulting whiskey is slightly sweet with heavy fruit notes and a nice spicy backbone.

AviAtion Gin ProvenAnce: Portland, Oregon (42% abv) AvAilAble At: Naked Vine, 1624 Clarkson Road,

Chesterfield,; $32.99 try it: In a 50/50 martini or a classic Last Word The producers of Aviation Gin call it a “regional gin,” as the botanicals in this spirit are collected from the Pacific Northwest, where it is produced. Aviation has soft juniper notes, but, in a break from the traditional London Dry gins, it also features lavender, cardamom, sarsaparilla, coriander, anise and sweet orange peel. All of the botanicals are infused or steeped in 100 percent GMO-free neutral grain spirit. This infusion is then redistilled, carefully diluted to 84 proof, and bottled. I cannot say enough about the balance in Aviation – every gin lover should have a bottle.

If you’re looking for a new stout to enjoy this year on St. Patrick’s Day, look no further than New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk. This imperial stout is aged in oak barrels, which provides a vanilla and oak character that melds wonderfully with the rich chocolate malt. Make sure to let this beer warm up a bit to really appreciate its complexity.

chArLeviLLe BreWinG co.’S tornAdo ALLey AMBer ALe Style: American Amber (5.6% abv) AvAilAble At: The Wine & Cheese Place,

multiple locations, wineandcheeseplace. com; $9.99 (six-pack, 12-oz bottles) PAiringS: Grilled beef tenderloin • Sharp Cheddar For many beer drinkers, amber ales are our first introductions into the world of craft beer. They’re relatively easy to sip, but just flavorful enough to get you out of your light lager rut. Once you begin to enjoy craft beer, you might forget about your old favorites. Charleville’s Tornado Alley Amber Ale has a toffee-like maltiness with just enough of a spicy American hop character to keep its malt sweetness in balance.


MARCH 2014

SoreL ProvenAnce: Brooklyn, N.Y. (15% abv) AvAilAble At: Parker’s Table; 7118 Oakland Ave.,

Richmond Heights,; $24.99 try it: Neat Hibiscus has been used for centuries in regions such as the Caribbean for its supposed medicinal purposes. Jack Summers, a New York native with Caribbean heritage, has created this delicious liqueur. Summers starts with an organic grain alcohol base. Moroccan hibiscus, Brazilian clove, Indonesian nutmeg, and Nigerian ginger are the core flavors added to create this low-in-alcohol and high-inflavor spirit. Cinnamon and clove dominate the nose, while ginger and hibiscus are the main components on the palate. Intense yet well balanced, Sorel will no doubt be popping up in drinks in your favorite cocktail bars.


WRITTEN By Kyle Harsha

Kyle Harsha is a certified specialist of wine and certified sommelier with over 20 years’ experience in the food and wine industry. He drinks more wine than he probably ought to.

domaIne de CrIstIa VIn de Pays de médIterranée rouge 2012 Provenance: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France available at: Grapevine Wines and Cheese, 309 S. Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood,; $11.99 Pairings: Veal cutlets• Wild mushroom pizza • Moroccan-style stew

This is the perfect wine for those with Champagne taste on a beer budget – or, more specifically, Châteauneuf taste on a Vin de Pays budget, though that doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily. It is the 100 percent Grenache little brother to the stunning Châteauneuf-du-Papes being produced by the 70-year-old, family owned Domaine de Cristia winery in the Rhône. It doesn’t see any time in oak, so drink in the raspberry, red licorice and tobacco flavors while the wine is still fairly young.

Bodegas atalaya “la atalaya” Provenance: Almansa, Spain available at: Saint Louis Wine Market, 164 Chesterfield Commons East, Chesterfield,; $16 Pairings: Chinese five-spice beef• Drunken goat cheese • Smoked sausage

As I have mentioned in the past, one of the best regions to look for “bang for your buck” wines is Spain. This wine proves that theorem once again. It is a small production wine – producing about 100,000 bottles – and is a delightful blend of 85 percent Grenache and 15 percent Monastrell, aged for a year in French oak. Besides the normal red fruit notes expected with these varietals, it also has layers of blackberry, blueberry and rose petals. The price is such that you won’t feel bad drinking it during the week. Take a bottle to your winegeek friend’s house, and they will be pleased as well.

matteo CorreggIa roero 2010 Provenance: Roero, Italy available at: Fields Foods, 1500 Lafayette Ave., Lafayette Square,; $19.99 Pairings: Shiitake mushrooms• Sweetbreads • Grilled bison burgers

If you are looking for a good deal on red wines that emulate the greats from Barolo and Barbaresco – but with prices that are significantly lower – check out the Nebbiolo-based options from the Roero region in Piedmont. The Matteo Correggia has beautiful notes of ripe cherries and dried rose petals, with just a hint of baking spice. It sees a couple of years in used oak, which results more in textural smoothness rather than imparting a “woody” taste. This month the weather should be easing into pleasant spring temps, so grab some charcuterie, a couple of bottles of this wine and enjoy a relaxing little picnic. Inspired Food Culture

march 2014


mystery shopper

Meet: MAHlAb

story and recipe by Shannon Weber photography by Jennifer Silverberg

Truly a well-kept secret, mahlab is an aromatic spice every baker should have in their arsenal, as it can add an unexpected dimension to even the most straightforward recipes. What is it?

Mahlab – also known as mahlepi – is the seed of the St. Lucie cherry, a tree native to the Mediterranean Basin and used predominantly in Greek, Iranian and Middle Eastern baking. Its flavor is a mix of almond and cherry, with a floral undertone and a mellow bitterness, making it a natural foil for the slight sweetness of breads and pastries. What do i do With it?

When used sparingly, mahlab can add a distinctive layer of flavor to subtly sweet offerings such as waffles, muffins and Danish pastry. Try adding it to breads like brioche and challah, which are sweet enough to temper the muted bite of the spice. To experiment, begin with around 1 teaspoon ground mahlab per 1 cup flour, and increase as you become more familiar with the flavor profile.

Cheese-Filled Pannenkoeken with Blueberry-Lemon Sauce Pannenkoeken are Dutch pancakes, a thinner version of American flapjacks. Whole mahlab is easily found at Penzeys Spices in Maplewood, and can be ground with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Serves | 8 | Cheese Filling


1 2 3 to 4 1¼

oz cream cheese, softened zest of 2 lemons (juice reserved for sauce) cup powdered sugar tsp pure vanilla extract tbsp heavy cream tsp ground mahlab

BlueBerry-lemon sauCe

24 2/3 1

oz frozen blueberries (or fresh) cup granulated sugar juice of 2 lemons tbsp water


1½ 2 ½ ½ 2 2 2 ¾ 2 ½


cups unbleached all-purpose flour tbsp granulated sugar tsp baking powder tsp kosher salt tsp ground mahlab cups whole milk tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly tsp pure vanilla extract eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted (optional)

MARCH 2014

| Preparation – Cheese Filling | In a large bowl using an electric mixer, whip cream cheese, lemon zest and powdered sugar together until well blended. Add vanilla, heavy cream and mahlab; mix until everything is evenly incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Set aside. | Preparation – Blueberry-Lemon Sauce | In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and water. Stir to incorporate; bring to a simmer over mediumhigh heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer,

stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes until liquid has reduced. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the pannenkoeken.

| Preparation – Pannenkoeken | In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and mahlab. In a medium bowl, stir together milk, butter, vanilla and eggs. Make a well in the flour mixture and slowly pour the milk mixture in the center. Gently stir, pressing out any lumps as you go, until batter is smooth and homogenous. Let the batter rest, untouched, for 20 minutes.

Heat an 8- or 9-inch nonstick pan over mediumhigh heat. Spray lightly with cooking spray if needed. Stir batter a few times to reincorporate. Pour ¼ cup of the batter into the pan and cook for 30 to 45 seconds, until golden. Flip and heat for another 30 to 45 seconds until fully cooked, then remove to warm plate and cover. Repeat with remaining batter.

| To Serve | Spread 2 Tbsp of the cream cheese filling on each pancake and roll. Serve 2 to a plate, topped with 2 to 3 Tbsp of blueberry-lemon sauce and 2 to 3 tsp of toasted almonds, if desired.

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114 W. Mill St. • Waterloo, IL • 618.939.9933 •

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���� �� ��������� ����� � ��������� � ������������ � ����������� Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


chef’s notebook

ethical Veal

At Home Wine Kitchen we have a new dinner menu every week. We’ve been open for a few years, which means we’ve written more than 200 menus. In that time span, we have featured veal fewer than 20 times. In early 2013, I received an email from an upset customer that simply read: “Veal? Really? Must you?” At first I was annoyed. My impulse was to reply to this person and tell them all about the veal we served – where it came from, the practices of the farm – but the truth was, I didn’t know. All I knew was that I think veal is delicious, and I wanted to serve it in my restaurant. Before receiving that email, I didn’t give any thought to the practices of the farm it came from or to sourcing humane veal; I just blindly ordered it and plopped it on my menu. As a chef, I felt like a failure. I have championed sourcing food locally and knowing where your food comes from, yet here I was, not able to tell an angry customer about the source of this product.

written by Cassy Vires

I didn’t only feel like a failure, I felt irresponsible. I stopped using veal until I could honestly say that I was proud to serve it. I learned more about the local and industrial farms I work with and researched veal practices more broadly. In the end, what I found surprised me. First of all, there is no getting around the facts: Veal is the meat of a baby cow. There are some people that will never eat veal for this reason alone, the same way some people choose not to eat rabbit, lamb or turtle. But for many people, the reason they protest veal is because of the terrible practices of many large-scale industrial farms, where calves are confined in small wooden crates, fed a milk substitute and a variety of hormones and slaughtered soon after birth. Let me assure you, I do not support this type of cattle farming. In my research, I learned that much of the veal sold wholesale to restaurants and to grocery stores for consumer purchase comes from dairy farms. To produce milk, cows must be lactating, which means they must be periodically impregnated. When these cows give birth to male calves, they are often raised for veal. As a business practice, this makes sense, especially if you consider the

smaller mom-and-pop dairy farms, as this gives them another source of revenue. Some smaller cattle farms produce veal as well, but not many. My source for veal is one of the latter. Lucas Farms, located in the Ozark Highlands of Missouri, produces a limited supply of pastureraised veal, and that is what ends up on dinner plates in my restaurants. Lucas Farms and other farms like it allow male calves unlimited access to their mother and their mother’s milk. These calves are hormone- and antibiotic-free. Lucas Farms also practices humane slaughtering. Because Lucas Farms respects their livestock, not only is the veal produced humanely, it is a higher-quality product. At large-scale industrial farms, stressed animals produce bland, tough meat with a pallid white color. The veal from Lucas Farms and other reputable producers is deep pink, incredibly tender and full of flavor. In my experience, the best farmers are the ones who know that happy animals produce the highest quality meat, and the people at Lucas Farms live that philosophy. When I opened that first disparaging email almost

a year ago, it was a wake-up call. Yes, I could tell you where the apples and asparagus on my menu came from. I could even tell you where my honey and my maple syrup were produced. But why wasn’t I giving that same level of attention to my meats and proteins? Since reevaluating veal and its place in my restaurant, I have started using better sources for all of our meats. This past November, I received another email from a customer questioning our decision to serve veal. This time, I was prepared. I ended up exchanging a number of emails with the customer, and in the end, she understood my point of view on veal. Because I listened to feedback from one customer, I was able to share my journey to sourcing veal ethically. This time around, the customer was OK with the fact that I was serving these products because I was educated about her concerns and could defend the farmer. Yes, I serve veal in my restaurants. The difference between today and one year ago, though, is that now I am proud of it. Cassy Vires is the owner and chef of Home Wine Kitchen and Table.

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Empowering Through Education The mission of Living Word Christian School is to assist Christian parents in equipping students with a Christ-centered education, empowering them to impact the world for the glory of God.

1145 Tom Ginnever Ave • O’Fallon • 636.978.1680 • 26

march 2014

Discover Historic Main Street Lunch and Dinner Buffet - All Day Sunday Buffet Chicken & Dumpling Wednesday • Fish Fridays Prime Rib Saturday Nights


• Broasted Fried Chicken • American Dishes • German & Hungarian Cuisine • Wine & Beer

(on Thursdays and 3rd Sundays)


Mondays: Closed • Tues - Thurs: 11am - 8pm Fri & Sat: 11am - 9pm • Sunday: 11am - 7pm

Columbia Illinois Where you will find hospitality, charm and friendly faces! 18 Unique Retail Shops & 15 Delicious Wine/Restaurant Locations

Visit for upcoming event details.

Limited menu now, full menu coming soon


230 N. Main Columbia, IL

DaILy DrINk & FOOD SpeCIaLS Tiny’s Pub & Grill 602 N. Main St. Columbia, IL 62236

618-281-9977 Grill Open Sunday-Wednesday 11-8 pm Thursday-Saturday 11-9 pm Pub open til 1 am.


Unique Western Apparel and Decor... Crafted to Last The Patina Pony is proud to present Western inspired clothing, boots, jewelry, accessories and designer home decor from today's top Western Artisans.

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Located in the Old Distillary

Cell 626-848-8652 Store 618-281-6002

113 W. Gundlach • Columbia, IL • 618.281.7915 •

Located in the "oLd distiLLery", step into the past and find something for everyone: one:

15% OFF First Glass of Wine Offer Expires 3/31/14

Martini Fridays, Great Wines, Specialty Beers, Spirits & Wine Accessories

• Free Coffee & wi-fi • Large selection of antique furniture & “smalls” • Huge variety of vintage linens • Special “Mantique” area for men • Scented candles including "Duck Dynasty" • Used books (we buy for cash) • Large inventory of new collectible farm & construction toys • Vintage and reproduction advertising & farm signs

603 N. Main St., Columbia, IL 62236 618.520.0850 Wine Bar Open: Tues.-Thurs.2-9pm, Fri. 2-11pm, Sat. noon-11pm, Sun.2-7pm

119 South Main Street, Columbia, IL 618.281.8117


Authentic Italian Brick Oven!

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antiques, Books & collectibles

e t at s a br ra e l Ce di G ar M

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Sun & Mon Closed. Tues & Wed 10am-4pm. Thurs & Fri noon-8pm. Sat 10am-4pm

Memory Lane Gifts

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• Full Service Florist • Fresh Florals for All Occasions & Holidays • Teleflora Wire Service • Weddings & Receptions • Funeral & Bereavement Items • Stepping Stones & Angels • Custom Silk Design • Delivery Available

515 N. Main Street, Columbia, IL 62236


• New Menu Items Now Available! • BBQ Every Wed. & Sat. • Large Outdoor Patio • 11 Flat Screen TVs • 12 Beers on Tap, Imported and Specialty Micro Brews • Extensive Wine List • Kitchen Open Late

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offer expires 3/31/14

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1 item with coupon before tax. Expires 3/29/14

Tableware,Textiles, & Gifts. Daily lunch and dinner specials


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618-281-2020 608 North Main St. Columbia, IL 62236 618-710-0200

Aunt Maggie's Family Restaurant 230 N. Main St. • 618-281-7894 Chateau La Vin 119 S. Main St. • 618-281-8117 Fabulous Finds 315 N. Main St. • 618-281-1954 Fashion Attic 4 Kids 103 West Gundlach St. • 618-281-7466 Imo’s Pizza 1450 Evergreen • 618-281-5552 Knott So Shabby Furnishings 117 W. Locust • 618-281-6002 Magnolia 208 N. Main St. • 618-281-8083 Memory Lane Gifts & Floral 515-B N. Main St. • 618-281-4538 Merz On Main 210 S. Main St. • 618-281-9901 Ole Tin Roof 207 N. Main St. Suite 104 • 618-719-2017 Our Coffee House Café 125 N. Rapp St. • 618-281-4554 Reifschneider’s Grill & Grape 608 N. Main St. • 618-281-2020 Roseberry Farms Antiques, Books & Collectibles 603 N. Main St. • 618-520-0850 The Patina Pony 113 W. Gundloch • 618-281-7915 Tiny’s Pub & Grill 602 N. Main St. • 618-281-9977 Vida Verde Studio Salon & Boutique 127 N. Main St. • 618-281-6767

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Private Parties Available

700 North State St. Freeburg, IL 62243

Shop, Wine, & Dine Guide



$ 95

Must mention coupon when ordering. Only one coupon per purchase. Tax not included. Delivery Additional. Not good with any other offer. EXPIRES 3/31/14

1450 Evergreen (Columbia, IL)



208 N. Main St., Columbia, IL 618.281.8083 Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


gadget a-go-go

IMMeRsIon BlendeRs

HamiLTon BeacH TurBo TwiSTer mixing STick

oSTer immerSion Hand BLender



The lightest blender tested, this baby includes both a blender shaft and a whisk shaft. The wires on the whisk won’t mix anything of substance, but worked to blend salad dressings and smooth cocoa powder into hot milk. The blending blades controlled vegetable purées for soups handily and whirled small-curd cottage cheese to creaminess. Good value for the price.

The best thing about the Oster is the blending cup. It holds three big cups. The pliable plastic lid snaps on the bottom of the cup to create a non-skid surface, which was clever. The buttons that control both high and low speeds were easy to reach and depress.


No cup. A clear plastic shaft and cup housing surrounds the metal blade shaft. The manufacturer advises against using this blender on a hot stove. The switch, located on top of the motor housing, requires hand and thumb action, which could cause pain in hands and fingers.


You can’t use the blender for more than a minute before it needs a three-minute rest. No kidding. Tedious. The blending shaft detached from the motor housing twice, once on a thin raspberry yogurt smoothie and once on a cauliflower mash. The first time, the two parts hadn’t connected securely. Even with checking the connection each time after, the shaft detached again mid-spin. $29.99; Oster,

$20.49; Kmart, multiple locations,

wRITTEN BY Pat eby PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jonathan gayman

cuiSinarT SmarT STick PROS

Hands down better than the rest, this welldesigned stick blender connects the motor housing to the blending shaft with a universal sprocket. A clever push-and-release button clicks into place for the easiest assembly of the bunch. The blade guard has a unique design with multiple openings and a toothy grooved bottom that helped foods move quickly top to bottom. Great heft in the hand. The motor purrs rather than whines, and it is fast as a cat, too. Recipes included. CONS

The mixing cup doesn’t measure up to the blender, with a miserly two-cup capacity. Drop a few bucks for a bigger cup and whirl away happily. $34.95; Cornucopia, 107 N. Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood,

kiTcHenaid Hand BLender PROS

A sturdy blender that’s not flashy but highly functional. The information booklet includes tidy sketches that show how to use the blender most efficiently and recipes to get you started. The three-cup capacity blending jar with snap-on lid is BPA-free, plus it’s wider than other models, which made for quick and easy vegetable and fruit purées. CONS

The heaviest blender of the bunch wasn’t so easy to hold. The assembly and take-apart required some time and elbow grease, too. $39.99; Bed, Bath & Beyond, multiple locations,

EditOR’S NOtE: At press time, the black model of

this product was no longer available for purchase. The white model was still available at


Ck o pag ut e

wHaT To Look for : SOmE ASSEmbly REquiREd. Since the blending shaft detaches from the motor housing of an immersion blender, check out how the two connect. Twist and lock assemblies that depend on aligning the two parts can be vexing. The easiest assembly method is a push-button release that clicks in place when properly attached.

button. Two speeds give better control, especially with the vegetable purées. mixiNG CuPS. If smoothies and shakes drive your desire for an immersion blender, you’ll definitely want a mixing cup. Most pull dual-duty as mixing bowl and as measuring cup, so make sure you like the capacity and the units of measurement on the cup. Snap-on lids are a plus here.

GRiP ANd SwitCh. Powerful motors demand hefty casings, so look for

a blender with a stick that fits comfortably in your hand. Almost all immersion blenders have a soft switch that operates by touch activation, so make sure your finger spread and reach can rest comfortably on the power


MARCH 2014

blAdE wORk. Because blending is what these handheld tools are designed

to do, blades must be sharp. They also benefit from two speeds, slow at the get-go to break down food and then faster to pulse and emulsify.

30! Immersion blenders make easy work of the vegetarian-friendly soup in this month’s Menu Options.

Homemade Greek Food Carry out • Catering Private Parties Gyros • Kebobs • Baklava oLYmPIa keBoB HoUSe aNd TaVerNa 7 days a week from 11am 1543 McCausland • 314-781-1299

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3 1 4 .9 4 2 .6 5 5 5 9568 MANCHESTER RD. ROCK HILL, MO 63119

Feast Your Eyes Tuesday, March 25, 6:30 pm Limited seating available. $75; $50 for CAM Members In partnership with chef Josh Galliano and mixologist Nick Luedde of The Libertine, CAM presents a museum tour followed by an intimate four-course meal inspired by the current exhibitions. Don’t miss this new incarnation of one of the museum’s most popular programs, redesigned as part of CAM’s tenth anniversary!

Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis 3750 Washington Blvd

Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


menu options

CAulifloWeR And WAteRCRess soup

Watercress is a leafy green that has a fresh flavor with a peppery punch. It offers snap to spring salads or a hearty stir fry and truly shines in light, bright seasonal soups. The cauliflower in this soup adds

STorY and recIpe bY Lucy Schwetye phoTographY bY Jennifer Silverberg

creamy texture while the roasted garlic purée enhances the depth of flavor. This hearty yet healthy soup is vegetarian-friendly and ideal for brightening up lunch or dinner on a cool spring day.

Spring cauliflower and Watercress Soup with Roasted Garlic purée serves | 6 | roasteD Garlic Purée

20 garlic cloves, peeled 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for blending tinfoil souP

2 2 1 1 6 1 6 ½ ¼

tbsp olive oil tbsp unsalted butter cup shallots, diced finely head of cauliflower, cut into small florets large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced quart vegetable stock cups watercress, plus more for garnish tsp kosher salt tsp freshly ground black pepper

¼ 2 1

cup heavy cream lemons, zested tbsp roasted garlic purée (recipe below)

| Preparation – Roasted Garlic Purée | preheat oven to 300°F. In a small bowl, toss garlic cloves in oil and transfer to tinfoil. Seal tinfoil to create a pouch so air and liquids cannot seep in or out. place in oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour or until the garlic is very tender. (You should be able to easily smash it with the back of a spoon.) remove garlic from tinfoil pouch and place in a food processer. add a few drops of olive oil and purée until smooth, adding more olive oil as needed. remove from food processor and place in a small bowl.

| Preparation – Soup | In a large pot over medium-low heat, heat oil and butter. add shallots and cauliflower florets and cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. add sliced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. add stock and bring to a very gentle simmer. Simmer until cauliflower is soft enough to break when pressed with a fork on the side of the pot. Turn off heat and stir in 6 cups watercress. allow to cool slightly. Working in batches, ladle mixture into a blender. blend each batch until smooth, then place in a separate container and continue blending batches until finished. return all of the blended soup to the pot and heat over low heat. add kosher salt and

pepper, heavy cream, zest from 1 lemon and 1 Tbsp roasted garlic purée. Whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. garnish with leaves of watercress and a pinch of lemon zest. Serve.

JOIN US! RSVP: 314.909.1704

m a k e Th e m ea

L: cauliflower and Wat ercress Soup with roasted garlic purée ○ grille d asparagus ○ grille d Lamb chops with bl ackberry Sauce over creamy po lenta ○ Lem on popovers with he rb compound butter ○

chef’S TipS : Pre-Peel. If you pre-peel garlic, you will have a better yield of the actual product. While it works to roast in the peel, it is very messy and you tend to lose a lot of product.

bitter hint to the soup. To do so, toss florets with a little oil and roast in the oven at 425°F until florets begin to caramelize. Dairy-Free Fix. While this soup is vegetarian-friendly, it can easily be made

Flavor Boost. You can add another flavor profile by roasting cauliflower

before adding it to the soup. It adds just a slightly sweet and delightfully

vegan by excluding the cream. The hearty texture of the cauliflower and watercress will still create a creamy mouthfeel, so dairy is not required.

Strawberry Ice crea

m over

Sweet biscuits

Le a R n m OR e:

In this month’s class

, you’ll learn how to make simple blac kberry sauce to pair with spring lamb dishes. You’ll also learn how to en hance popovers with homemade com pound butter.

get hands-on: Join Feast and schnucks Cooks Cooking school on Wed., March 26, at 6pm to make the dishes in this month’s menu. tickets are just $40 for a night of cooking, dining and wine. RsVP at 30

MARCH 2014



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Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


Ben PoremBa WrITTEN BY Brandon Chuang


food and the future fantastic

PHOTOgrAPHY BY Jennifer Silverberg

Ben PoremBa likes things that are sexy. An artistic plating of root vegetables; a minimalist Todd Bracher bar stool made of metal tube and steel – nothing is off limits to the equal opportunity tastes and sensitivities of the up-andcoming chef and restaurateur. Currently burying the needle on his sexy radar is a set of china: black, ornate and leafed in gold. They’re being sold by a woman who very much looks like the grandmother you’ve always wanted; the kind that you can just tell bakes a fantastic cookie, most assuredly chocolate chip. “Mmm, these are dead sexy,” Poremba says aloud to no one in particular. “Yes,” responds the chocolate-chip-cookie-making grandma, awkwardly. “They’re…just beautiful.” Considering his occupation, it would make sense that a feature story on St. Louis’ chef du minute, Ben Poremba, would begin in a kitchen. Maybe he’d stand there in chef’s whites and speak prophetically about his approach to cooking. And maybe he’d keep himself busy while talking, stirring and smelling various pots and pans for dramatic effect. But this just isn’t the case. Ben Poremba can’t be in a kitchen right now, because that would mean he’s not currently in an antique mall on the outskirts of St. Louis trying to figure out if these black and gold plates are exactly the things he needs for his restaurant, Elaia. “These would create such drama, no? Just imagine a small amuse-bouche; something small and pretty in the middle of the plate.” “Those are $850,” explains the seller, adding that they’re leafed with real gold, as Poremba furrows his brow in thought. “If these were [cheaper] I would buy them,” he stage whispers, walking away towards the next aisle in search of hidden treasure. By now you all know the story of Ben Poremba (Israeli immigrant; mother was a professional chef; degree in philosophy). And while he’s helmed the kitchen in several respected establishments around the city, Poremba really began to come into his own when he, along with Mark Sanfilippo, opened Salume Beddu in Lindenwood Park (cured-meat shop; housed in a strip mall; anointed by Forbes as the best salumerie in America). As the business continued garnering greater and greater acclaim, St. Louisans were perfectly content with ingesting the spoils of Poremba’s and Sanfilippo’s work. All was well. But then Ben Poremba went HAM. In April of 2012, Poremba announced that he was


MARCH 2014

opening Elaia and Olio: one a fine-dining restaurant that would operate out of a then-ramshackle, two-story house, the other a wine bar and casual eatery that would operate out of a then-ramshackle former gas station that sat next door. Three months later, word spread that pastry queen Simone Faure would break ground with Poremba on La Patisserie Chouquette, a French pastry shop that would operate across the street. Seven months after that, Elaia and Olio opened; Chouquette followed 90 days after. And this past November, the timing was apparently right to begin construction on Old Standard, a chicken and whiskey joint that will anchor the opposite corner of what’s swiftly becoming the Ben Poremba dining district. “People think that this is happening all of a sudden,” explains Poremba of his seemingly overnight empire. “But this has been in the works for a long time. I’ve been studying and preparing; hopefully, this is just the beginning.” It’s kind of difficult to understand what’s in store for a man whose beginning appears so…eclectic. But that’s OK, because only one person needs to understand it. While the rest of us see a foundation made up of a French bakery, a wine bar, a fine-dining restaurant and a self-described chicken shack, Poremba sees a galaxy of interconnected stars: reference points that form a constellation of potential that burns bright above the horizon. “It’s all about reference points,” notes Poremba on his unique ventures. “You need them to connect with your food and your customers. If I put something like shark spinal fluid on a menu, it may taste fine, but there’s a disconnect. No one really knows what it’s supposed to taste like, but everyone knows fried chicken and macarons. With Olio, for me, the reference point was food that I grew up with, that I enjoy. I think that customers can feel that.” On a random Thursday night, Olio is warm and welcoming. From its windows spills out a yellowish orange light, sourced from the industrial modern fixtures that help to make up the restaurant’s buzzing personality: a sort of pale-blue-collar ethos. It’s a nice feeling – clean lines and cozy blankets – which is good. Because Poremba is nearly an hour late for our appointment. “Man, man, man,” Poremba says apologetically as he sidles up to the bar. Almost immediately a gigantic glass of water appears in front of him. “One of my cooks called in, and I had to run to do a catering job.”

PICTURED (left to right and top to bottom): Tortellini filled with mascarpone-enriched celery root, celery root-pear crème, gingerbread-pecan crumble and aged juniper vinegar; Poremba plates a dish in the kitchen at Elaia; assorted accents and décor at Elaia; slow-roasted loin of lamb with whipped parsnips, “wheat 12-hours,” preserved lemons, red cabbage agrodolce and Moroccan oil-cured olives.


This is not surprising; the idea of a chef having to jump on the line to replace a downed cook isn’t a novel one. What is surprising is the fact that Ben Poremba had to jump on the line. This isn’t to say that the former chef of Winslow’s Home doesn’t work; at the moment, Poremba may be the busiest guy in town. But it’s because of this busyness, the responsibilities that come from opening soon-to-be four businesses in fewer than two years, that makes the idea of Poremba sweating on a catering line almost comical. Nothing that Ben Poremba does is without reason. Every job, every detail of his ever-growing organization is scrutinized and considered. Literally, every detail. Ask Poremba about the font choices he uses for his eateries, and he can quickly rattle off each one by name – the irony that Elaia and its eyebrow-raising prix fixe menu is written in a typeface called “Champagne & Limousines” is most assuredly not lost on its chef. But after years of obsessing, the calculating restaurateur now understands that to be able to effectively run his restaurants, he has to let go a little in running his restaurants. He’s learned that having people in place for everything allows him the freedom to do anything. “The reason I’m where I’m at is because of this team,” explains Poremba of his success. “I’ve surrounded myself with individuals doing great things.” Poremba does seem to have a knack for assembling gifted people. From partnering with Simone Faure on Chouquette to landing one of the city’s only certified advanced sommeliers, Andrey Ivanov, as his general manager and beverage director at Elaia, Poremba has amassed an impressive faculty of talent. “Each of them is a brand,” says Poremba about his clique. “Simone is already a brand. Andrey is a brand. John [Fausz, resident mixologist and bar manager for Olio] is a brand. Josh [Charles, chef de cuisine at Elaia] is on his way to becoming a brand. They help me to succeed in my dreams, and I want to help them succeed in theirs.” So what is Ben Poremba’s brand? He refuses to even attempt an answer, but based on the way he speaks about his operations, Poremba’s brand is branding. Within his industrious cadre of overachievers, he is the culinary equivalent of BASF: Ben Poremba doesn’t make the products you buy; he makes the products you buy better. If you tack on his most recent venture – yes, there’s another one – directing the prepared foods initiative for the Global Foods Market that will open later this year in the Delmar Loop, you begin to understand just how far Poremba has peered into the crystal ball when it comes to his business of brands. “When you go to Global Foods to grab something to eat, whose pastries do you think we’ll be selling,” Poremba asks with a grin. “Whose fried chicken?” It’s innocent enough, the way this father of an always-dapperly-dressed young boy named

Omri speaks about his goals. After all, you can’t fault ambition or the desire to provide for one’s family. But there’s something about the way Poremba talks when he’s referring to the future that’s a bit intimidating in its speed and assuredness. Or maybe, in reality, the thing that’s scary is the fact that he just might be able to pull it all off. “I’m super competitive by nature. I grew up boxing and I played semi-professional soccer,” he says as he laughs and pats his stomach. “Not anymore, obviously. “Now I’m competitive about my business. Antiquing is my sport.” This brings us back, full circle, to the antique mall and Ben Poremba’s love of all things sexy. Though he’s been far too busy lately to go as regularly as he’d like, his staff will tell you that there’s nothing their boss loves more than antiquing. “Be prepared for a long day,” laughs Olio’s John Fausz. Regarding his love for all things antique, Poremba admits, “It’s the thrill of discovery. It’s getting what you want at the price you want.” Looking at the scene that’s been unfolding on his corner of Botanical Heights, Ben Poremba usually gets what he wants. Knowing he needed something to support the small-volume, high-end restaurant he wanted (“isn’t that every chef’s dream, to own and run a small, fine-dining restaurant where they can cook the food that they want”), Poremba created a combined front of Elaia and Olio so that one could help offset the costs of the other (“you have to be prepared for the off nights as well as the busy nights”). Knowing his location wasn’t ideal,

TOP OF PAGE: The dining room at Elaia. RiGhT: Poremba poses in the bar area at Olio. OPPOSiTE PAGE: Lightly

cured sea scallops with Asian pear, sunchokes, hazelnuts, candied orange peel and maple caviar at Elaia.


MARCH 2014

“I’ve surrounded myself wIth IndIvIduals doIng great thIngs.”


“The food aT olio is a liTTle more close To home for me.” he wanted to figure out a way to attract people to the area. So Poremba added Chouquette and is in the process of adding Old Standard later this spring to bring greater attention and interest. But right now, all Ben Poremba wants is to figure out if he should actually get these sexy gold-leafed plates for Elaia. He’s already purchased a sexy wooden chair to go along with a set of sexy glass bowls and eight sexy coupe cocktail glasses. All that’s left is to figure out what to do about these $850 plates. As is the case with most things he does, Poremba doesn’t make his decision lightly.

He’s chosen to take his time by walking away to think. More specifically, he wants the seller who overheard his earlier comment to take time to think. So as Ben Poremba makes towards the doors, I do too, following in the footsteps of a man dead set on blazing ahead towards a future that only he knows. But it seems that the future is going to have to wait a minute, because Poremba’s path has been interrupted by a sweet grandma-type who I’m just praying has brought a cookie tin with her. “Would you consider $675?”


FivE sidEs of ben poremba

One look at Ben Poremba’s daily calendar would probably make an average American adult cry. In between the personal training sessions, antiquing and raising a child, the son of a professional chef oversees a gaggle of restaurants and shops. If you’ve never been, here’s what you’re missing.


At one point in time boasting the most expensive tasting menu in the city, Poremba’s flagship restaurant is lauded for its modern approach to Mediterranean-inspired fare. With its menu seeing everything from a roasted saddle of rabbit to chicken-fried sweetbreads, the white linen-cloaked restaurant is considered by many to be one of the top dining destinations in the city. “The food at Elaia is a little more my point of reference as a professional cook,” says Poremba. “It’s the same places, it’s the same background and cultures, but now it’s from the perspective of the cook.”


Olio is a wine bar and small plates–style restaurant set in a renovated gas station from the 1930s. “I like décor industrial, sort of rustic and almost worn out a bit,” says Poremba. “I thought I’d just make it a little more contemporary and a little more upscale. We didn’t paint the walls, we kept some of the worn out features of the space, but [we also] added a lot of modern nuances, like the light fixtures, all of the furniture.” Last year, the popular eatery, along with its big brother, Elaia, was named one of the 50 best new restaurants by Bon Appétit. The egg salad may have something to do with it – Poremba moves 75 pounds of the stuff a week. “The food at Olio is a little more close to home for me: really my experiences and my identity as a person,” says Poremba. “I moved here; I traveled in Europe a lot; so really a healthy mix of what looks to Americans to be very exotic, but to me are just simple, vibrant dishes.”

la PatissEriE ChOuquEttE

Beloved by many a St. Louisan with a sweet tooth, Poremba opened this French bakery with renowned pastry chef and New Orleans native

Simone Faure last year. “We thought, ‘What could be greater for this neighborhood, to make it even more sought after, more elegant, than bringing in a world-class French pastry shop where people can come in, have coffee and tea, but also eat some of the best pastries in the country’” says Poremba. “Instead of just looking for people to operate it, I was looking for a partner, a true professional, and Simone was looking to do something on her own.” Along with its “designer macarons,” Chouquette puts out treats that are often almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Old standard

Slated to open in May, Poremba’s newest spot will bring the Botanical Heights neighborhood not only an all-American whiskey list, but also fried chicken and other Southern-inspired dishes. “Old Standard is sort of my personality as a person who’s been living in the United States for about 15 years now…stuff I like about America,” says Poremba. “We’re looking to do something quite different than what I have at Olio and Elaia, something to bring a different niche to the neighborhood. I decidedly wanted to do something that is comfortable, where the price points are a little lower and that is very American. So we thought about fried chicken, which I consider a favorite food, and we thought about American whiskey, and that’s that story.” While the menu isn’t completely set yet, one thing is for certain: Old Standard will give St. Louisans exactly what they like when it comes to their fried chicken. “Why can’t you order what you want,” asks Poremba. “If I just want thighs, I should be able to order just thighs.”

unitEd PrOvisiOns

Set to open in August inside the new Global Foods Market in the Delmar Loop, United Provisions will offer a breakfast buffet and lunch and dinner service, as well as grab-and-go foods such as sushi, banh mi and falafel. Poremba describes the spot as an “urban grocery store” that will also include a large deli and an upscale meat and cheese selection. “The food there – because Global Foods is known for a variety of different ethnic [foods] – is going to be a play on dishes that are very foreign in nature, but have become part of the bigger contemporary American diet.”

PICTURED (left to right and top to bottom): Charred eggplant with Beluga lentils, kefir and chives; accents at Olio; Hummus “King of Kings” topped with almonds, smoked paprika and extra virgin olive oil; Corpse Reviver #2 made with gin, Cointreau, vermouth, lemon and absinthe; New York Sour made with rye, lemon, simple syrup and red wine; Suburban made with rye, dark rum, ruby Port and bitters; flatbread topped with bacon, smothered Brussels sprouts and aged Cheddar.

COngrats tO BEn POrEmBa!

In February the James Beard Foundation announced that Poremba – as well as St. Louis chefs Gerard Craft, Josh Galliano, Kevin Nashan and Kevin Willmann – is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest in the Foundation's 2014 Restaurant and Chef Awards. Watch for the finalist announcements from the James Beard Foundation on Tues., March 18. Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014

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MARCH 2014

kitchen by committee WriTTEn By Shannon Cothran


phoTogrAphy By Jennifer Silverberg

in the small office at Element an hour before dinner service, discussing what to serve with the pork that night. Just two days before, one of them had brined pork tenderloin and served it with leeks to the rest of the chefs. Together, they’d decided peppercorn chutney would be the best sauce. But now, so close to opening, they still hadn’t agreed on what starch would work with the dish. “What about sweet potatoes?” one chef asked. “All those things would go well with sweet potatoes, and we could get those here in 20 minutes.” Forty minutes before opening for dinner service, chef Brian Coltrain was peeling a case of sweet potatoes, and chef Chris DiMercurio was printing menus for the evening that included pork tenderloin with sweet potato, leek, peppercorn chutney and lardo vinaigrette. PICTURED LEFT TO RIGHT: Chef Bradley Biesinger, chef

Brian Coltrain, pastry chef Meaghan Boyer, beverage director Meghan French, executive chef Brian Hardesty, chef Sam Boettler and chef Chris DiMercurio.

Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


fried oysters initial idea

final concept


MARCH 2014

The team’s on-the-fly collaboration paid off. “That dish is popular; it sells very well,” says Brian Hardesty, executive chef at Element. Element opened this past September in a historic, three-story, brick warehouse in Lafayette Square. Part of the 1906 City Hospital complex, Element is located inside what was once the hospital’s power plant. The restaurant’s open kitchen and dining room is accessible via elevator in the building’s lobby, with a third-floor bar area and lounge located just above. The building still has that blue-collar factory feel, and Element takes advantage of it, combining sleek interior design in the space’s casual setting. Element feels spontaneous and accessible. From most seats in the house, the chefs are on display executing their magic, a show for diners to experience along with the food. The night of the team’s last-minute scramble to finish the pork tenderloin dish, patrons saw what they see every night at Element: a team of chefs working together as a tight-knit group, sometimes under tumultuous, changing circumstances, but always with aplomb. The large and small plates they’re preparing – with a focus on locally sourced ingredients – are turning heads all over town. And though he’s at the helm, Hardesty won’t take full credit for Element’s success. While developing Element for 18 months before its official opening, Hardesty decided to try something new for the brick-andmortar venture. The co-founder of the food truck Guerrilla Street Food says he “wanted a different feel in the kitchen, instead of being a boss shaking his finger.” He wanted to build a collaborative kitchen where every cook is a chef and has a chance to contribute to the creation of each dish. “I wanted to work as a team and elevate everybody,” he says. Often in restaurants, a group of cooks toil to execute a head chef’s vision. But Hardesty believed there was a better way to run a kitchen, and he put that into practice at Element. His team all share the title of chef and work together equally to develop and prepare the season’s menu. No one is higher-ranking than anyone else, though Hardesty leads the charge. And even he acts more like a cog in the creative wheel than a boss. At the start of a new season, the team gathers for a formal menu-planning meeting where they throw out ideas. “Culinary-wise, I set the theme,” Hardesty explains. “For the late winter menu, I said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to think about. We’re going to think about super-tender, braised meat.’” After the meeting, the chefs disperse and get to work. They make various ingredient requests to Hardesty, and when their food orders come in from the truck or the farmers’ market, they roll up their sleeves and let the creativity flow. When they think a dish is ready, they present it to the rest of the chefs to be tasted, and then step back to hear their teammate’s suggestions for improvement. These tasting sessions are constantly occurring; no scheduled, sit-down meetings are necessary. While organizing the walk-in or stuffing entrails for sausage, the chefs banter and discuss how to make each dish the best it can be.

Before they debut a menu, things get intense in the kitchen. There are “weeks of testing and playing around to see what comes out. We might make 20 dishes and drop 10 and still be six dishes short,” Hardesty says.

Explore the joy of food.

Only when all members of the team agree that a dish is finished does it get added to the menu and served to guests. The chefs at Element are evenly represented on the menu, with each having a few dishes that were their original idea – something they executed with major collaboration from the rest of the team. As far as Hardesty knows, the structure of Element’s kitchen has no comparison: He and his team can’t look to anyone as an example for how to do this correctly or how to move it forward. That means he and the rest of the chefs are always reevaluating and evolving. “I don’t want anybody to be like, ‘OK, we’re there.’ I want everybody to push a little harder,” Hardesty says. “Even if we’ve made it 100 times, I want people to think, ‘Maybe this would be better with this,’ and then make it better.” Hardesty believes his concept works because his team is comprised of very skilled chefs. “I can have Chris [DiMercurio] cooking 10 orders of scallops while talking about how maybe rabbit’s good for next Friday,” he says with pride. For his part, Hardesty says he does his best not to overwhelm his team or disrupt their flow during a dinner rush. “I’m not gonna say, guys, you have 25 orders to plate in the next five minutes, let’s talk about the menu for next week.”

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“Sounds like the usual Friday,” DiMercurio jokes. DiMercurio’s remark is telling: It illustrates that he and all the chefs at Element believe the collaborative model improves not only the workplace vibe – these chefs are all friends – but ultimately the food. Each chef brings different sets of skills or knowledge to the kitchen committee at Element. Sam Boettler, for example, is soft-spoken but quick to share his fascination with slow cooking processes, like simple roasts that take 10 hours to prepare. At Element, he’s found a home where his creativity can be pushed and challenged. “I like to feed off the other people,” Boettler says. “Two heads are always better than one. You may have an idea and then somebody else will add something to it, and it forms a better product. You learn because everybody has their own style, so you get a better scope, and it helps you be a better chef.” For DiMercurio, the dynamic at Element allows his personal interests and strengths to be enhanced by the team. DiMercurio studied formally in culinary school and brings his experience with regional cuisines to Element: he’s worked in Colorado, Vermont and Manhattan, and in St. Louis at Niche and with Matthew “Mateo” Daughaday at Taste. An energetic and confident chef, DiMercurio personifies the kind of personality that thrives at Element – he’s all for one, one for all. “It’s the chance for everybody to get to be individuals but still part of a team,” says DiMercurio. “It’s an ideal environment for chefs Inspired Food Culture

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root vegetable salad initial idea

final concept


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to work. You get the chance to have someone correct your mistakes before you make them.” Brian Coltrain was also classically trained in culinary school and has worked in many St. Louis restaurants. Coltrain, who is most at home at the grill, is relaxed, friendly and forthcoming. He says he knew Element’s collaborative kitchen idea would be successful not only for diners but for the chefs, too. “I knew these guys were going to help me further my career,” Coltrain says. “I was confident the chefs here were talented, and they would give me solid, constructive criticism.” Hardesty agrees that Element’s system makes better food in the short term and adds that it also creates better chefs in the long run. “Giving these guys the responsibility that comes with the title of chef makes them meet my expectations,” Hardesty says. “They want to impress everybody. If one chef puts up a great dish, then another thinks, ‘I can do one that great.’ And then everybody is doing their best.” Boettler’s best work took weeks to develop. He’d never worked with mutton before and asked Hardesty to order it. Mutton wasn’t available, but lamb was, and Hardesty had already been dreaming about pot roast. “Brian gave me the idea for pot roast,” Boettler says. “And then I thought of lamb pot roast.” “But it was the holidays, so…” Hardesty says. “I wanted it to taste like Christmas,” Boettler says, finishing Hardesty’s thought. “So I decided to use, instead of a wine reduction or a demiglace, a spiced wine.” Creative play like this is encouraged at Element, and the results have been met with extremely positive feedback from diners and critics. The lamb pot roast dish was a hit, and Hardesty and Boettler credit its success to their collaboration. While there are many successes at Element, the collaborative kitchen that Hardesty and his team are building isn’t without its problems – though Hardesty insists most of the challenges are easily overcome. For example, when you’ve got six people planning one menu with 16 dishes, consistency can be an issue. “Our first menu had Korean [and] Italian and didn’t make sense together,” says Hardesty. “Our last two were much more focused.” The restaurant’s biggest obstacle is organizing the ordering for so many creative minds. “There’s a lot of heads going, ‘I want this today; I need this in three days; I’m interested in this product for next week,’ Hardesty says. “I have to look at the list of desired products and think, ‘This will spoil in two days, etc.’ It’s logistics.” The menu doesn’t specify which chef developed which dish, further emphasizing that every plate is a group effort. This also means that at the end of the day, there’s no room for ego at Element. “[Collaboration] works, but only with the right team,” Hardesty says. First, each chef has to be

technically sound. “When everybody is skilled, it’s much easier,” Hardesty says. “The one thing I can have faith in is everybody’s technical skills: keeping everything clean, temps – all that stuff I don’t have to worry about.” At Element, Hardesty says that there’s also “a lot more communication and conversation going on,” than in most kitchens. “I want to be able to say to my guy, ‘I didn’t like this, here’s why,’ and not have him stomp off on me,” he continues. “We sit and talk about it, and then everyone else gets involved, and then he’s like, ‘OK, now I’m refocused; now I know what I want to do,’ and then everybody’s happy.” No matter the structure, every kitchen requires a good leader in order to succeed – and Hardesty works hard to fill that role. “I think my main responsibility as executive chef here is to wrangle everybody in and be the main editor of the overall menu as a whole,” he says. “I promote inner-team criticism. I don’t have a problem being completely honest – not being [a jerk] – but being straightforward. That shows leadership, and it works out very positively. My other main responsibility is to keep everybody’s egos in check; nobody should feel they’re better than others. Everybody has a lot of talent and drive. I just want to keep them focused and keep thinking about the future.”

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The chefs are talking about the future today. As servers arrive for the evening shift, the team is having an impromptu meeting about the spring menu while prepping for the night’s service, a night that will have them cooking for two parties of about 100 people each plus regular dinner guests. Bustling to and from the walk-in with different ingredients, they talk over and on top of one another but somehow manage to effectively communicate. “Morels, wild greens,” Coltrain calls out. “It’s getting into early springtime, so you want a lot of things that grow in St. Louis that are edible and delicious.” “I want to get away from super heavy braises and move toward more fresh, raw, interesting ingredients – crispy,” muses Hardesty. “Like some cold stuff. Maybe it would be appropriate to do a crudo at that point.” Coltrain, Boettler and DiMercurio continue discussing the spring menu while their hands are busy wrapping caul fat around pork for grillades. For just a moment, Hardesty stops and gazes at his crew disinterestedly. The executive chef is tired. For a few seconds, he looks as if he might fall asleep standing on his feet. Suddenly, the spell breaks; he shakes his head; his eyes refocus and he is once again popping off ideas for the guys to chew on, a steam train forging ahead no matter the road blocks; completely resolved to redefine the way kitchens operate – or at least, the way this kitchen operates.

■ ■ ■

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boudin blanc initial idea

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rehearsal dinner

WrItteN BY Liz Miller PhotoGrAPhY BY Jonathan Gayman Shot oN loCAtIoN At The Crossing

ABOVE: Chef Mike Craig (right) briefs stage Petr Hoffmann on the menu at The Crossing at the beginning of his shift. TOP RIGHT: Chef Katie Fitzgerald explains to Hoffmann how several salads are prepared at the salad station. BOTTOM RIGHT: Craig shows Hoffmann how the kitchen’s convection oven works.

on his first day working at world-renowned restaurant Daniel in New York City, Josh Galliano peeled a week’s worth of bell peppers in only a few hours. Ambitious and eager to impress, Galliano was instructed by a supervising sous chef to peel the three cases of peppers as quickly as possible under pressure that chefowner Daniel Boulud himself wanted to see how much he could turn out. In exchange for all that peeling, Galliano earned a permanent place in the kitchen at Daniel. “A few months later, [the sous chef and I] were working across from each other – he was fish cook, I was meat cook – and there came a day where I started seeing some dishes similar to what I had prepped [during my stage for employment] – because you go through the seasons and your sous chef hits similar notes,” Galliano says. “I looked at

it and was like, ‘You remember when I staged? You made me peel three cases [of peppers] and made me think it was for that night’s prep. that was your entire week’s prep!’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I did that. I got a lot of work done out of you,’ with a laugh.”

much not how it’s always been. It’s our job to teach and instruct people if we can. that’s what we do.”

Staging – a practice that stems from the French word stagiaire, or trainee – offers cooks the opportunity to learn the ropes from experienced chefs and the chance to rise through the ranks in restaurant kitchens. Depending on a cook’s ambitions, staging is a sort of internship; a chance to gain priceless experience that might even result in a job.

Galliano, now the executive chef at the libertine in Clayton, had years of professional experience under his belt before his stage at Daniel, but in order to land the gig, he still had to prove himself. Unlike modern internships in other fields, staging extends beyond inexperienced workers looking for a foot in the door – many seasoned chefs also stage, eager to up their game or observe how their peers operate kitchens. often chefs take vacations simply to stage in other cities – not for employment, but for the experience.

“[Cooking] is an oral tradition; it’s only in recent history that we’ve been writing everything down,” Galliano says. “that’s very much new and very

“When I was younger, it was staging to experience another type of food,” Galliano says. “Nowadays, it’s experiencing a different style

of organization or setup. It’s still about the food and what they do, but I like to see how they do it, more than what they’re doing.”

fact, according to Fiala, one of those very contemporaries staged with him before moving on to open his own restaurant.

From restaurant to restaurant, responsibilities and tasks assigned to stages vary greatly. The stereotype goes that stages are stuck in a corner peeling a mountain of potatoes, but as Gerard Craft, chef-owner of Craft Restaurants Ltd., points out, often peeling potatoes is as crucial to a restaurant as preparing a final dish. “Cleaning vegetables is one of the best tasks to give a stage that’s looking for a job, because the majority of our work [at Niche] is cleaning vegetables – we’re a pretty vegetable-driven restaurant,” Craft says. “It’s tedious and tiring, and I think that’s a good way to check somebody’s work ethic. If they’re kind of whining their way through it, not taking it seriously or asking, ‘When am I going to cook something?’ they’re probably not right for this kitchen. ‘Well, it’s just vegetables.’ Well, for us that’s just as important as meat, if not more important sometimes.”

“I remember when Kevin Nashan first came to town, he staged [at The Crossing] for a week or so,” Fiala says. “That’s a totally different type of stage…you get somebody as good as you get, and he just wants to experience the kitchen, meet people. There’s an energy that comes with Kevin or with a stage of good quality that has worked in good kitchens.”

Though staging is an old industry practice, opportunities for staging in St. Louis have increased greatly in recent years. Twelve years ago, when Jim Fiala opened The Crossing in Clayton, there were far fewer opportunities on a local level. Fiala and his culinary contemporaries are often credited with introducing a higher level of expectation to the dining scene – in


Since opening his incarnation of Sidney Street Cafe in Benton Park 10 years ago, Kevin Nashan has been a driving force in elevating the St. Louis food scene and actively encourages staging at his restaurant. Fiala says Nashan is a rare example of a stage – most cooks who stage in his kitchens are less experienced – but the benefit of bringing in cooks of all experience levels is two-fold: Not only do his chefs get to relearn (and in some cases, rethink) their work through teaching a stage, but once the stage is trained, it frees up the kitchen to focus on creating new dishes. “Let’s say [a stage] has got a month,” Fiala says. “I can spend time and teach them how to clean fish, and then, once we’ve trained a stage how to clean fish, we can take that off my fish guy’s plate, and now he’s got two hours of free time to spend doing something else, which then translates to the wait staff: They see a cool dish; they get fired up; they’re out selling a new dish and we’ve got more fun things happening in the restaurant. It translates across the kitchen, across the wait staff and to the customers.” Generally, a few days or a few weeks is enough time for a stage to secure a stellar reference or permanent restaurant gig, but in recent years, longer stage terms have been put into place at restaurants in the U.S. and abroad: At Mugaritz in Spain, stages run, at minimum, for nine months (room and board is included if you can foot travel expenses). Craft says this kind of opportunity underscores the incomparable benefits of staging: In what other industry can you just walk into a business and immediately begin working with world-class professionals who are at the top of their game? “I want to say to people, if you can go to Mugaritz for nine months, do it,” Craft says. “I mean, what an experience. I haven’t sat down and tallied up how much that costs, but I’d venture to say it’s worth it to stage at Mugaritz for nine months over nine months at your local culinary school. I’m not discounting culinary school in any way – culinary school is great for the basics; it can give you that foot into a stage. Not to be the executive chef, but it’s your foot in to be a peon and get in the door.” Galliano echoes Craft’s perspective on culinary school, and both chefs acknowledge the many benefits of formal education and training – learning the fundamentals, including knife skills and classic cooking techniques, and hopefully developing a strong work ethic – but stress the importance of seeking out the right kind of education, one that understands and respects hierarchy in the kitchen and emphasizes that, at its core, cooking is a toilsome and modest profession not tailored to every personality. When Craft was first coming up as a cook, he learned this very lesson – not through his first Inspired Food Culture

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kitchen gig, “my first job in a kitchen was in a pool hall, so not a lot of staging happening there,” – in culinary school at Salt Lake Community College, where he spent “a couple semesters” under the instruction of professor Leslie Seiferle, a veteran chef and Culinary Institute of America grad.

BOTTOM LEFT: Craig shows Hoffmann how to make the different pastas prepared at The Crossing. BOTTOM RIGHT: Craig assigns Hoffmann the task of peeling potatoes as prep work.

“She was a true pistol,” Craft says. “She’d grab you by the shirt and yell – she was tiny, too – but she set real values for us. She gave us reality and didn’t paint a rosy picture. She was like, ‘You’re going to toil it out at the bottom of the kitchen, and even when you’re at the top of the kitchen, you’re still going to be toiling it out. The rest of your life is working. You’re going to work when everybody else is playing, and once you become a sous chef or a chef, it’s going to be the loneliest position, because you can’t go out drinking with the guys.’ As much as you don’t want to hear that,

it’s the best thing anybody can tell you: it’s not an easy life to be a chef. The more people out there that tell that story to young cooks – instead of trying to sell them on some dream – the more likely we are to have people who come into the kitchen with realistic expectations of what their future is going to look like. It’s not a glamorous life at all: It’s one that we chose, one that we like and one that we happen – in some sadistic way – to enjoy, but it’s not the dream job for many.” Despite the crazy hours and constant pressures, cooking is the dream job for some. The question is: Short of knocking on the back door of every restaurant in town, how does the dream become a reality? Craft and Galliano are both quick to sing the praises of one St. Louis culinary institution – one where they believe student chefs are gaining the education and experience necessary to succeed in the industry. “I love what Chris Desens is doing at Hickey College,” Craft says. “One of our old sous chefs who is super talented is one of [Hickey’s] top chefs. Those guys are super talented, and I think they’re putting out good cooks and instilling them with real-world values.” At the Culinary Institute of St. Louis at Hickey College, chef and program director Chris Desens doesn’t argue with Craft or Galliano about the obligation schools like Hickey’s have to their students. “How do we prepare them for taking their first step?” Desens asks. “I think staging is a first step. Ultimately, they leave here with the foundation, and they learn from the best teacher of all, which is experience. And that’s what a stage is: experience.” At Hickey, students can enroll for an 18-month associate degree in culinary arts or a 12-month diploma. Those who choose the 18-month


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track are required to complete an eight-week externship, Hickey’s version of a stage. One of Hickey’s recent grads, Connie Snyder, entered the school with no professional kitchen experience but enthusiasm to learn, and, with the help of Desens, snagged an externship at The Libertine just weeks after the restaurant opened. “At Hickey they teach you every aspect of the culinary field,” Snyder says. “You have your kitchen classes where you learn the basics, but you also have culinary math, psychology, public speaking and stuff like that to prepare you for the real world. I think every single class I took there is or will be helpful throughout my career in this industry.” After her externship ended, Galliano kept Snyder on, and in January she graduated from Hickey – and remains in the kitchen at The Libertine, now working as garde manger cook. “[The Libertine] was the first kitchen I’d ever been in and I feel so lucky to have started there,” Snyder says. “Everything they do is high level, and I feel so blessed that I started there and that I got that hook up from Chef Desens. With the chefs [at The Libertine] I learn something new every day. When I started there, they were so open, and when they explained something to you they explained it in detail. The team there…the front of the house, the back of the house, everyone, is just a huge family. ‘One team, one dream,’ that’s their motto, and I absolutely love it.” When asked about Snyder and her success at The Libertine, Desens beams, clearly proud and honored to educate, prepare and support students like Snyder. “One of the challenges to a student or any entrylevel chef – and even for a professional – is how to build your network,” Desens says. “A stage is a great way to do that. You can tell a lot by somebody in a four-hour shift. You can see: Are

TV Watch the MaRch episode NoW! Watch the MARCH episode of Feast TV on the

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Feast TV is presented by Missouri Wines with additional support from Whole Foods Market and Dining Out For Life. ©2014 Schnucks

Inspired Food Culture

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RIGHT: Craig teaches Hoffmann how to clean mussels and remove the beards. BOTTOM LEFT: Hoffmann strains stock while Craig assigns tasks to other cooks. BOTTOM RIGHT: When the mussels are prepped and ready to prepare, Craig shows Hoffmann how to cook them.

they willing to work on their own time? How do they handle themselves? A big thing we teach here is professionalism: Are they on time? Are they professional? Are they respectful? Speed will come over time, but there are some things as an employer that you’re looking for.” Before opening the doors at Hickey in 2010, Desens worked in restaurant kitchens for almost 20 years. He describes staging early in his career as hugely educational and eye-opening, proudly recalling a stage at then two-year-old Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago during a James Beard Foundation event, where he worked alongside a cadre of talented, famous chefs, including Trotter himself. “All these chefs were walking in the door: Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Jonathan Waxman, Sanford D’Amato, Lydia Shire, Nobu Matsuhitsa,” Desens says. “I knew I was a chef but I also had a lot to learn. I was still hungry, and I was there to do whatever. So I’m shucking oysters with Nobu, and Charlie and Nobu are telling me, ‘Don’t poke the center,’ and ‘Be careful yet keep moving; we’ve got to do a hundred more.’ I was so young, and I had management experience, but I didn’t really have the culinary background. I had my education [but] I didn’t have the experience at that level, and


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that’s why it was so valuable for me to take that trip. I remember Charlie used to say, ‘It’s not good enough; do it again. Give a me replate on this one.’” Later, impressed by Desens’ work, Trotter invited him to stage for a night at the James Beard House in New York City. Locally, Desens has worked in a handful of kitchens, but points to his time with chef Bill Cardwell during a long stint at Cardwell’s at the Plaza as a defining experience in his career. “Our program – and our city’s [dining scene] – is directly influenced [by] Bill Cardwell, Steve Gontram, Jim Fiala and the Bommaritos,” Desens says. “We owe it to them, who laid the groundwork, to continue to move it forward. In the past 10 years [the dining scene] has taken a spike – unprecedented, for sure – but I always go back to my time with chef Bill. He showed me the ropes. It was difficult, it was hard, but I grew a lot. I learned a lot and I’m able to pass that on every day.” Staging also isn’t without controversy. Many stages are unpaid, similar to internships or apprenticeships in other fields. At Hickey, Desens says externships at the culinary school are unpaid by design, as the payment for students is the professional experience.

“I think the difference is, years ago you might have considered it free labor, as a chef – ‘oh, I’ve got free labor, I’m going to use them and abuse them’ – you weren’t thinking about them, you were thinking about you and how it would benefit you,” Desens says. “Nowadays, it’s changed. Not only is it potentially an investment in them, leading to a job for them, but leading to a more qualified [chef] and a peek into what they’re capable of doing.” For chefs, inviting stages into their kitchen is an investment of their time, but it’s also a risk. If stages execute a task incorrectly and product is lost, that hurts the kitchen’s bottom line. The upside, though, is training a possible new employee, and under the best circumstances, can mean gaining new skills or knowledge to further grow their team. “This has happened a few times with us,” Galliano says. “A cook might have a ton of experience with another cuisine that I’m not overly familiar with – maybe it’s Mexican, Chinese, whatever it is – and they show us stuff that’s pretty cool. Maybe it doesn’t happen often, but it’s a lot of fun when it does. That person usually gets a job if I’m hiring – now you get to teach us.”

TV Our March episode delivers a rare look inside some of the best kitchens in St. Louis. Spend a night on the line with Niche’s chef de cuisine, watch Blood & Sand’s new chef craft inventive dishes, see Elaia’s menu collaborations unfold and find out how Element runs its kitchen by committee. 12:00 / 28:29


Watch Feast TV on the Watch the March episode on the Nine Network (Channel 9) at 2pm on Sat., March 1, and 1pm on Mon., March 3. Feast TV will also air on the nineCREATE channel periodically throughout the month. Feast TV is brought to you by the generous support of our sponsors.


In March, reach for a bottle of Hermannhof Vineyards’ White Lady. We’re pairing the lighter, German-style white wine with a brunch-perfect pannenkoeken dish during Feast TV producer Cat Neville’s demo. 12:00 / 28:29


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Hungry for more? Inspired Food Culture

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EditEd by Liz Miller and catherine Neville photography by Demond Meek

bLuE-PLatE INDUSTRy LUNCHEON LuNch event date: date: event MONDay, 20, 2014 MON.,JaNUaRy JaN. 20, 2014 place: FaRMHaUS FaRMHaUS place: time: 2pm 2pm time:

ExEcutivE chEfs lead restaurant kitchens. One of their responsibilities is assembling the right team of cooks to execute their creative vision. These chefs de cuisine, sous chefs, pastry chefs and line cooks often go unnoticed outside of the kitchen, but as their bosses will tell you, they are absolutely essential to a restaurant’s success. Interested in recognizing – and bending the ears – of these talented, up-and-coming cooks, we asked seven local executive chefs who they’re excited to work with on the line. What followed was a conversation with that group of young cooks over the fried chicken blue-plate lunch at Farmhaus. Editor’s NotE: In the interest of preserving the

authenticity and candor of this conversation, this story contains strong and potentially offensive language. PICTURED FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:

• Jamie Everett, pastry chef, Farmhaus • Jess Paddock, pastry chef, Home Wine Kitchen and Table • Josh Poletti, executive sous chef, The Libertine • Ming Liu, sous chef, Sidney Street Cafe • Ryan McDonald, chef de cuisine, Juniper • Josh charles, chef de cuisine, Elaia and Olio • Nate hereford, chef de cuisine, Niche

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MaRch 2014


PICTURED: Fried chicken at Farmhaus.

Catherine Neville: What does it mean to be a chef de cuisine in your kitchens? Nate Hereford: Essentially it’s someone who oversees the kitchen when the executive chef isn’t there. Depending on the structure of said kitchen, it kind of varies. A lot of my responsibilities at Niche are ordering, hiring and making sure the kitchen is running up to my chef’s standards. I think the idea of running it up to your boss’s or your chef’s standards is a common goal throughout. Neville: Trust comes into play with the owner or the chef-owner of the restaurant. How do you establish a positive working relationship and that level of trust? Josh Poletti: Proving yourself and not compromising anything. If you wouldn’t eat it, you don’t sell it. If you don’t think the dish is gorgeous, it needs to be redone. Josh Charles: I think consistency is a big issue, too – proving that consistently, time and time again, you can produce exactly up to their standards and to your own. That was a really big connection between me and Ben [Poremba]. Neville: How did you get into the kitchen at Farmhaus, Jamie? Jamie everett: [My] chef back home was from St. Louis, and I was looking for jobs around here. Chef [Kevin Willmann] had just won a Food & Wine magazine award, and [my chef] recommended coming here. I came down and staged, and chef gave me the job, and I moved to St. Louis. Originally I was the garde manger cook. I still work the hot line occasionally, but our pastry chef left, and then chef started doing them, and then he just kind of asked me if I wanted to do it and passed it on. Neville: Has anybody else staged? POleTTi: I’ve staged and eaten in every place before I’ve worked there, except Libertine, because we opened that. Neville: How long is a stage typically? “We WANT TO KeeP iT CONSiSTeNT, KeeP iT ReAlly gOOD AND PuT A lOT OF lOve iNTO iT.” josh poletti

POleTTi: A full day. At least a full day. Jess Paddock: If you don’t last a day, it’s not going to happen. Ryan McDonald: I have people in my kitchen right now who are laypeople who just want to learn how to cook. It kind of started with the popups we were doing – with [A] Good Man [Is Hard to Find] and [The] Agrarian. I had people stage for six months at a time, a couple days a week or three days a week. I still have somebody who works at another restaurant but really isn’t fulfilled; they stage twice a week [at Juniper]. HeReFORD: One guy at Niche probably staged with us for two years. He’s a Ph.D. candidate at Wash. U., and he’s a really good kid. He’s really into food. We used to give him a hard time, but he’d still show up every day. Neville: What is it really like for you to be in this industry on a day-to-day basis? HeReFORD: I just had a child this summer, so I’ve tried to mellow it out a bit, but it’s still crazy. Today, for example, was one of my off days, and I got a text message from one of our purveyors at 7 this morning. So it’s already starting at 7am. POleTTi: It’s almost seven days a week. We’re always prepping; we’re always trying to get

our orders in on time; we’re always thinking about what we want to do. We want to keep it consistent, keep it really good and put a lot of love into it. So at 2am Josh [Galliano] will be emailing me ideas, or things that we need to work on. And then come Monday, our day off, we’re starting a new bread program, and we have to go in and feed the starter and make a levain and keep that going. It’s non-stop, all day, every day. CHARleS: I think I have a pretty unique situation. I get in about 9, first thing I do is pull everything out of the walk-in that we need to start cooking that day because we don’t have a set menu [at Elaia]. Basically we have certain ways that we prepare items – about four or five different ways. I’ll pull out everything we need for the day and get it on the stove, assign tasks to my cooks. And then from about nine to two o’clock we’re just straight prepping, getting as much stuff as I can get done as possible. At two o’clock Ben usually pops his head in – he’s there before that, obviously – but he and I sit down, and we talk about the menu. We decide what’s going to go with what, whether it be cauliflower with bass and grapefruit or that same cauliflower going with our short rib and barley. From there, it’s all about bringing everything together, getting it in a spot, and showing the cooks how exactly we want to plate for the evening. And then, even throughout service, I get to go a little bit farther and add to the dishes. If I want to add a celery leaf garnish to it for the rest of the night, that can happen. Go through service, talk with chef Ben at the end of it: how things tasted, how things went, kind of start thinking about the next day.

around talking, waiting, and all of a sudden you just get hit with tickets, and then five hours have gone by and you’re like, “wow, I’ve just been putting out food, dish after dish,” and the whole time it’s kind of an out-of-body experience trying to make each dish perfect. But it’s happening so fast it’s hard to really focus on it. PADDOCK: I love the fact that service is the easiest part of my life. [Everyone nods in agreement.] Pastry is like 85 percent planning and prioritizing, 10 percent cooking and 5 percent figuring out when I’m going to deliver this to Home Wine Kitchen, and when I’m going to be back to prep, and when am I going to sit on a crate in the corner of my kitchen and get some me-time to make a dish. The menu changes every week at Home Wine Kitchen so I have to have desserts for that, and then we have No Menu Monday, so I have to come up with like nine desserts for that. Service is just: All I have to do right now is make food. I don’t have to talk to anybody, I don’t have to boss anybody around and occasionally I can polish dishes when there’s hot food going out. But I love the fact that making the food is the easiest part. Everything else – the interpersonal part, the managing, the transporting, figuring out when I’m going to go let my dog out – is the hardest part of the day. HeReFORD: Absolutely. I realize that after running the kitchen for a while, cooking is the easy part. The hard part is being the psychologist, being the father figure, being the mother, sometimes. You’re all these different roles.

Neville: Do you thrive in that kind of constantly demanding environment?

Neville: What mistakes do you see people make when they first get into the industry?

Ming liu: You have to be on your toes all the time. If you’re not physically there, mentally you’re 24 hours on-call, pretty much. I have food dreams. [Everyone laughs.] I’ll wake up yelling, and I realize that I had a dream about somebody doing a bad job, and I’m yelling at them. You just have to be there all the time.

HeReFORD: I think a lot of people get confused by the money and the expectations. Because culinary school costs so much money, people are like, “I have to pay my loans back, and I’m not making any money.” You need to make that sacrifice. If you have the ability to stage at a restaurant that’s three Michelin stars, you should do it, because it’s going to teach you work ethic, which in time will get you money.

HeReFORD: It’s so consuming, you start to realize that you cook when everyone else is off. You know that’s your job on Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, every night of the week. You know if there’s an awesome concert you’re not going to be able to take Saturday night off to go see the concert; you’ve got to get over it. That’s the biggest thing – I want to [cook] even more. You start to realize cooking is something very serious…And that’s pretty cool. Neville: What is it that you love about cooking? HeReFORD: A million things. I love on a slow night, or a night when it just kind of starts, and all of a sudden everyone in the kitchen is just going. It starts from nowhere. Everyone is standing

MCDONAlD: You have to put your time in. POleTTi: And ask a lot of questions. Neville: When new people come on board, can you just tell if they have it or they don’t? Do you have the patience to train them to become the cooks you need them to be? POleTTi: I believe that everyone at this table will say that they have the time to teach them, if that person is enthused and they have a great attitude, all they want to do is learn; they don’t care about the sacrifices. But it’s upon that [cook] to ask the right questions.

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PADDOCK: What I look for when people train is: Can they get along with my staff? Do they fit in? That is always hard, because this person might be professionally great, but they’ve never worked here before. Just because you make said dish this way, that’s the way that chef wanted it; this is the way this chef wants it, and this is the way this whole team puts the work in together. There are some people that are open to new ideas and new techniques and some people that are really rigid. You can teach anybody to cook; you can’t teach somebody how to come to work every day, on time, no matter what’s happening at home, no matter what happened to their car. It has to be in their heart.

to do it better next time. I think it depends on the cooks that you’re managing.

NEVILLE: How is the tone set in your kitchen – by you or by your executive chef?

MCDONALD: I have three total.

LIU: All the chefs in a good restaurant should have the same minds and see things the same way, whether they want to or not, because if you can’t get along as managers and chefs, how are you going to train somebody – more people – to do that? That’s how I see it, or at least at Sidney Street. CHARLES: I think it’s definitely a trickle-down effect. Ben sets the tone and sets the law, and then I very much enforce it. The first thing in our kitchen is professionalism. You have to show up on time, you have to be ready to work at the time you’re clocking in and have the energy to be constant the entire time you’re there. That’s basically up to me, to make sure that everyone is adhering to the codes at all times, and push everyone to be that way. It definitely comes to the chef de cuisine [to be] the enforcer. NEVILLE: If a cook is not executing things well, how do you deal with that? HEREFORD: It depends on the circumstance. I like to keep it mellower, where we all know where we’re at; we know what we want to achieve, and we just need to be professional about it. If I’m having a problem with a cook, I’ll usually talk to them one-on-one, outside of work and keep it pretty casual and see what I can offer from my experience to get them back on the right track. Other times, the big man might need to be called in. When [chefs] start to not enjoy what they’re doing, it affects the food; it affects the customers; it affects everything. POLETTI: Keeping morale high is very important. You want to keep people happy at work; you want to keep them motivated; you want to make sure everyone is having a good time. Everybody can get along while they’re getting their jobs done, but at five o’clock, you will be set up, you will put out the food that you need to and it will be right, every time. PADDOCK: I think it depends where you work. I’ve worked in places where it’s silent with the lights turned down; it’s only French spoken – whether you speak Spanish or English or whatever, you know how to say, “Oui, chef.” Where I am now, we take ourselves really seriously, but in order to get through it, sometimes you just have to dance, sing or be silly. If you’re a professional at all times because you can get exactly what needs to be accomplished done in an efficient manner, if your attitude is great and you have a good time while you’re doing it, then that’s good.

CHARLES: It’s very individual. You have to treat everyone individually. I think we’re like life coaches, sometimes. I like the one-on-one technique. After service, sitting down, talking to them, seeing where they’re at, telling them where they need to be – where you want them to be – and how you can help them attain those goals. NEVILLE: It’s interesting to hear how much management you all do. How many people work in your kitchens? How many do you oversee?

POLETTI: I have nine cooks, three dish washers and a sous chef. EVERETT: We have six cooks and two dish washers. On busy weekends, we usually have five to six people and two dish washers. During the week, we’ll narrow it down. NEVILLE: Are you the only pastry person? EVERETT: Everybody collaborates and helps out, and nobody lets anybody go down in the kitchen – if somebody needs help, they’ll all team up, and we’ll knock it out. HEREFORD: That’s something I really like: team collaboration. Just in St. Louis in general, all of us here; we all collaborate as a team, really. It’s the same thing in our kitchen, too. You’re never really going to let anybody go down, because we all know what we want the end result to be. It’s teamwork. POLETTI: Getting that city-wide is big. I don’t know Josh [Charles] very well, but if Josh called me and said, “Hey, can I borrow some flour?” I would give him some flour. CHARLES: Right. HEREFORD: We’re all there for each other, citywide, which is kind of cool. EVERETT: That’s pretty big, the teamwork [in St. Louis]. I’m from out of town – and I don’t think I’ve talked to anybody here, personally – but Bob [Zugmaier] from Sidney Street and Christy [Augustin] at Pint Size, I went to them when I first started and needed help, and they were more than helpful. [Josh] Galliano has definitely helped me out a lot. NEVILLE: Where does that culture come from, where you see each other as part of a community and not as competitors? MCDONALD: I think it’s that St. Louis’ food

MCDONALD: I kind of thrive on getting my ass kicked, and sometimes I like to get screamed at, and I take that as, “You’re messing up, and you need to do better.” There are some cooks that thrive on that – I have one cook that thrives on that, so I’ll yell at him because I know that’s what it takes for him to step it up. Other people get their feelings hurt or respond better to just being talked to about how PICTURED: Nate Hereford, Niche.

scene is so young. Even five or six years ago, how many great restaurants were there in this town [compared to] where we are now? I think a lot of the young cooks and everyone at this table probably worked at a lot of the same good restaurants in St. Louis coming up, and you know each other. A lot of other cities are so cutthroat that if your neighbor calls you for a favor, you’re going to tell them “no.” I think that’s something that we all need to focus on, too, at this table – being the next step in the food scene here – keeping that community. PADDOCK: I think that as cooks, professionally, you are inherently competitive with yourself, and we can compete with each other on a professional level, but we also know how much support you need in order to succeed. We want to see each other all do well, because if five of these guys aren’t at the table again next year, that doesn’t make me look good. We want St. Louis to be a destination town. I think we can have a friendly, competitive nature, but also want everybody to succeed, because we all have different styles of restaurants. We’re all here for a reason – because people love different things about each of the restaurants. HEREFORD: It challenges us all inside to step our game up. We’re all competitive, but we also know how hard the push is to get to this point, so we want to help each other. I find myself a little empathetic – but I still want to be better than you. Friendly competition, you know. NEVILLE: Where do you see your careers going? POLETTI: I’d like to open a place with one or two other people who care about food and service as much as I do. That’s what it all comes down to. As long as you have a good partnership, so you don’t have all that weight bearing just on your shoulders. The more minds, the more ideas, the more things going on, the more you’re going to be able to accomplish. It takes more than one person to run a restaurant successfully. MCDONALD: I want to travel. I want to cook in other cities. That’s my short-term goal. Long-term, I definitely plan on coming back to St. Louis and bringing the knowledge I learn in other kitchens, in other cities and even countries, back here. HEREFORD: I traveled around. I really appreciate St. Louis, kind of from an outsider perspective. The people here are really cool. The culinary scene is awesome; it’s really up and coming. There’s a lot of potential with the area, as far as farms, and that support. I’d love to open a restaurant here, but it’s not necessarily the idea, it’s more of what Josh [Poletti] was talking about – the right partnership of ideas – because it’s something you’re going to put a lot of energy into. You’ve got to make sure it’s right for the town and right for you.

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LIU: The more I learn about having your own restaurant, the less I want to do it. [Everyone laughs.] Just because of all the problems I see. All the talk behind doors, the frustration…it’s scary. It’s really scary. To take out a loan, and sometimes you feel you’re by yourself doing it. If I did, I would have to do an extensive amount of research and make sure I can get all the help I can.

there last night and had both their regular and their spicy shrimp ramen. There’s nothing more comforting than just a huge bowl of ramen. It’s absolutely awesome. NEVILLE: Where do you get inspiration? Through traveling, reading books, talking to each other? MCDONALD: All of the above.

NEVILLE: Speaking of opening your own place, what do you think is missing in the St. Louis culinary scene?


HEREFORD: Well you can’t give the secret away. [Everyone laughs.] You kind of have to ask yourself: What’s the next big thing? It would be cool to see more ethnic food – like real ethnic food, funky ethnic food you see in places like Fat Rice in Chicago, where they’re doing super unique takes on Asian food. I’d like to see more of that around here.

PADDOCK: I like to see things that people typically are like, “overplayed,” or, “this is my grandma’s thing,” like gooey butter cake. We have a killer gooey butter cake right now. My mom came in a couple weeks ago, and she was like, “How did you do this?” Well, I took everything about that recipe and kept the heart of it, but changed it. I made my own cake mix; we make our own cream cheese; we use really good local honey.

different than our approach to it [at The Libertine] – like, night and day. NEVILLE: When you do have ideas, how do you go to your chef and say, “This is my idea.” Do you cook it for them? What is that creative process like? MCDONALD: It starts with discussion and pushing points back and forth. The second step for me is thinking about what are the best techniques to achieve what I want and then testing recipes, messing with different ingredients and techniques. CHARLES: We talk about it first. It’s the idea that starts first: we discuss it, we practice it, test it out a couple times. Then from there, once we’ve got that single item the way we want it, we can integrate it onto our menu pretty much at any time, which is really cool.

NEVILLE: Did you get it right on the first try? POLETTI: Or Lucky Rooster in New Orleans. That was amazing. It was basically white kid Korean food, and it was so good. MCDONALD: I think we need a few more really solid vegetarian restaurants. I miss cooking The Agrarian food sometimes, because it’s kind of the exact opposite now [at Juniper]. That was a lot of fun. I think a lot of cooks come up learning how to cook with fat as flavor and striving to work the meat station at their first restaurant job. To me, once you learn how to cook meat, you can cook meat, and it’s kind of boring. I don’t think many cooks, if you challenged them to put out a really awesome vegetarian plate, can do it. POLETTI: Baking bread is probably what I’m most into right now. That takes a lot of time, is very tedious and takes a lot of love to really get it right. A lot of people have lost that and just buy bread instead of making it themselves. HEREFORD: I think one thing the town needs more of is people who focus on one thing, and they focus on doing it really well, whether it’s a butcher shop, a bread store, a donut place, a sandwich shop – whatever it is, you should still want to be the best out there. That intensity of, “I want to make the best…whatever it is.” Look at Scott [Carey] from Sump; he just crushes it. I have friends who come in from New York, who travel the world, and they’re like, “This guy makes the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life.” That’s awesome. We need more people like Scott to inspire everybody else and push it. CHARLES: I think highly specialized operations [are] something we’re definitely missing and need. Something I would like to see – and something I want to do – is a steam bun operation. I think it would be really cool to have someone who just does steam buns and does them very well: five different flavors, and just puts out awesome steam buns. It’s one of my favorite foods, ever. In San Francisco there’s a truck called Chairman Bao, and the first time I had their steam buns, it was life changing. I was just blown away at how good it was; all the flavors were right up my alley: The soy, the cilantro, the jalapeño, pork belly. To get a good steam bun is comforting, and it’s cheap, it’s good, it’s casual.

NEVILLE: How long can that process take? PADDOCK: Yeah, but that doesn’t happen very often. We just did a huge overhaul at Table – it was like we opened the restaurant again, six months after we opened it. I made the menu first, and then, of course, decided how to make everything. I said to chef [Cassy Vires], “It’s so frustrating that things don’t work out the first time you do it!” And she said, “What are you expecting?” But it’s fun. I kind of catalog it in my brain and change it into something else, because we can’t throw anything away. NEVILLE: What was it like for you to go through and change the menu at Table? PADDOCK: It was really hard. We spent six months to a year figuring out [the menu] – how we wanted to do it – we believed in it, we loved it. And then we decided that it just wasn’t working. We want people to love it as much as we do. It’s hard to just scrap all of that and start over – it’s emotionally more taxing than physically, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. CHARLES: To backtrack, I think creativity goes hand-in-hand with point of reference. My main points of reference are books, and then my own palate, my own experiences. To have a good base, and start there, is the building block of creating. HEREFORD: Nothing is really original in an artistic sense. Any crazy idea I’ve ever had, I Google it and someone else will have already done it. I find that if I can clear my mind – going to the woods and being away from everything – I get a lot more inspiration and focus then if I’m reading books or talking about food a lot. POLETTI: Just because someone else had the same idea…it’s still not your take on it. [Josh Galliano, Ryan McDonald and I] were in Memphis a couple months ago, and we went to Hog & Hominy. They had buffalo pig tails completely

POLETTI: I love steam buns. [Everyone laughs.] CHARLES: I’m telling you, steam buns are where it’s going to be. I think before the steam buns, though, because obviously I can’t open a steam bun shop next year – I’ve got a lot more learning to do before I do that – I think the next big thing, personally, is ramen. It’s just on the cusp, and once someone opens up a ramen shop, it’s going to be packed. Hiro does a really good ramen. I ate PICTURED: Ming Liu, Sidney Street Cafe.

CHARLES: Anywhere from a week to a couple months. We’re always working on something. Luckily, some projects take two days and work out right away, and then other times I’m spending months trying to work on stuff. Finding time to get to it is the biggest thing. I think a big thing is being able to balance, not only personal and work lives, but at work, balancing creativity with consistency and making sure the rest of the staff is on the same page; making sure everyone is trying to grow and doing the right job. NEVILLE: A lot of people talk about ego in the kitchen. What role do you think ego plays in either the success or the demise of a restaurant? POLETTI: Leave your ego at the door. HEREFORD: Yeah, absolutely. It’s easy to get caught up in those things, but at the end of the day, it’s not even your opinion, it’s who your boss is. That’s all that really matters, especially for the cooks. I don’t like to think of myself as having a large ego outside of work at all – I just don’t really believe in that – but I think sometimes the restaurant I work at creates an ego. We try to put out good food, but really we’re trying to push the limits, and I think there’s confusion between trying to push and having an ego. MCDONALD: I think there’s a fine line between being proud and passionate and having an ego and being cocky. I think all of us at the table can admit that at some point we’re guilty of having an ego or being a little too proud, but I think that’s easily confused. PADDOCK: I think in the restaurant world, the universe has a really great way of knocking your ego back. You might have killed it the night before, and you come in the next day and you’re


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Inspired Food Culture

MARCH 2014


PICTURED: Jamie Everett, Farmhaus.

ankle-deep in [sewage] because the toilet backed up. It happens to us all, all the time. NEVILLE: You have to prove yourself every single time you walk in the door. PADDOCK: Absolutely. The positions that we’re in…there are people under us, and if we decide that we don’t want to perform that day, then what kind of example are we setting for our team? CHARLES: I think a good thing about a kitchen, too, is that you get to go in with a fresh head every day. If you had a bad service the night before, you can walk in the next day and it’s a completely different day and you have to live each day to the fullest and really push. That’s what all of us have to do: be at the top of our game all the time. I expect that my cooks try to outperform me, but they don’t ever live up to that all the way…because if they’re pushing harder, I’m pushing harder. I don’t let them outperform me. At the same time, I have to be 110 percent on my game every second of the day. It doesn’t stop when I leave the restaurant. We can’t have inflated egos – we would never last. No one would want to work for you. But at the same time, you have to be confident; that’s a part of all our job descriptions, too. NEVILLE: How do you recharge? MCDONALD: For me, any time off I have, it’s going outdoors, whether it be walking in the woods, picking mushrooms; anything outdoors kind of puts me at peace. And playing music is something I don’t have to think about, I can just sit down and enjoy myself and kind of disappear for a few hours. HEREFORD: I just had a kid, so spending time with him – I’ll even just sit in his room at night while he’s sleeping; it’s completely silent, and I just discovered a couple weeks ago, it’s very Zen. And it’s important to find that Zen space, to let yourself go, get away from everything. It’s kind of daunting to think that when I open up my own place…this is never going to stop for the rest of my life. Thinking about it that way is kind of intimidating, but if you take it one day at a time and you love what you do, then in the long run, I think it will be worthwhile. “I ENjOy IT NOw, wATCHINg PEOPLE ENjOy THE FOOD OR HAVE PEOPLE CHALLENgE ME wITH qUESTIONS AbOUT My FOOD.” ryan mcdonald

POLETTI: A lot of our kitchens don’t have windows and being outside is very relaxing; we can gather our thoughts where you don’t have to think about anything inside the restaurant. Cooking outside, though, is very relaxing for me. Cooking outside is very Zen…probably my favorite thing to just cool down, relax and feel a lot better about my life. Backwoods style is definitely the way to go. CHARLES: I own a house in Collinsville, Ill., and I have a 20-minute drive home. For some reason, the second I hit the Illinois side, I just relax. I’m out of the city; I’m out of the hustle and bustle; I’m across the river and in my car. The second I get into my house, though, I’m centered. I’m where my center of the universe is. It starts there, even though I spend way more time at the restaurant. I’ve definitely contemplated staying the night [at the restaurant] many times, but I know that if I do, I won’t get to hit my center and reset for the day, so I always make it a point to go home every single night. HEREFORD: I had a night like that a couple months ago where I was doing this brunch at Sump. I got out [of Niche at] 2:30, 3am on Saturday, and I wanted to get [to Sump] at 6am, so I went home, and I literally sat on my couch and just got up and went to brunch an hour later. It was snowing; my car was full of all the prep, and I was freaking out. Then you look back: “Wow, I worked 27 of those last 30 hours.” But it’s

completely, 100 percent worth it. I don’t think any of us would do it if it wasn’t. POLETTI: Well, what do we say? We’re not cooks; we’re “make it happen-ners.” That’s all your job is: Just make it happen. LIU: Yeah, I think for almost all of us, there’s no option to fail. We just have to do what we have to do. People that are not in our positions; they don’t understand that: that there is nothing else that is more important than what we do right now. NEVILLE: It takes a very specific kind of person to do what you guys do and do it well. CHARLES: There is no option for failure. It’s sad to see a restaurant close because it’s a story that has ended. And as far as restaurants being open, it’s never ending. It continues and continues, and once it closes – especially if you’ve been at that restaurant from the moment it opened to the time it closed – you’re still you, and you’re still just a person, and that restaurant, that existence, that entire community, is no longer there. NEVILLE: What creates failure in this industry? HEREFORD: Disappointing the customer, at the end of the day, so that they don’t want to come back – because they’ll tell 10 people. It’s one thing if my chef is pissed at me; it’s another if my customer is pissed at me. When I have someone who sends food back because they didn’t like it or they don’t understand it, it’s heartbreaking, because you invest so much energy, your whole life, into it. NEVILLE: Do you talk to customers on the floor? Is it intimidating, or do you enjoy it? MCDONALD: On weekends I work expo station, so I do a lot of food running, and while I’m doing that, I’m always checking with the tables, talking to them about the food. I think its fun to have interaction, and the chance for me, as a chef, to be able to talk to the customers and get a direct response from them. In the beginning I was totally the person who was, “I’m in the back of the house. I don’t want to see people; I don’t want to deal with them.” But I enjoy it now, watching people enjoy the food or have people challenge me with questions about my food. NEVILLE: Before Kevin and Mina Nashan took over Sidney Street Cafe it was an established restaurant. Kevin, brilliantly, allowed the restaurant to slowly evolve to where it is now. What is it like to work in a restaurant like Sidney Street? LIU: It’s a real privilege. There are so many talented people that I get to work with right now, [and worked with] in the past. Employees come and go; I pick up on what they know, and we exchange knowledge about food and what we’re passionate about. There’s so much to learn.

I think I’m very fortunate to be in a place of that volume of food and employees, where we can just play around and be really creative…and make mistakes without people even knowing. It’s a real honor to work with Kevin and Chris Bolyard. NEVILLE: People switch jobs constantly in this industry. How do you maintain good relationships with past employers when it’s time to move on? POLETTI: Being really professional about it and always being prepared for favors asked of you. There were times Josh [Galliano] would call me asking if I could help out at a dinner. Yes, no problem. Drop what I’m doing and I’ll go. Josh was a big mentor for me...he taught me so much. I’ve never had anyone so hard on me, trying to nail this knowledge into my head. And [I] always kept a professional relationship with him outside of work as well as a personal relationship, and he understood why I left [Monarch]. I learned under him for a couple of years, learned as much as I could, and it was just time. We always kept in touch. PADDOCK: It’s in our nature to learn as much as we can from the place we’re at, and then make that professional transition somewhere else. That’s why they hired you in the first place – your knowledge and your quest to learn. Sometimes people take things very personally, but you can’t control the way people feel. You just have to know you’re doing your best and trying to maintain a professional relationship. We see each other at every private event that’s off site…I don’t want to treat any of these people badly because what if I’m looking to go work for them or with them? CHARLES: It’s all about not burning a bridge, especially here. If you burn your bridge here…you’ll still get a job, but you’re not going to be in the top tier of restaurants, because everyone here talks. It’s all about maintaining good relationships and keeping up personal connections. HEREFORD: I think any of our bosses would be really proud if any of us stepped out and did our own thing, because they know that the roles that we’re all in, we’re almost the spitting image of how they run their kitchens – and they’re proud of how they run their kitchens, and they’re obviously proud of us if we do our own stuff. MCDONALD: I think a big piece of moving on for me – more than seeking out the next restaurant I want to work at – is seeking out the next chef I want to work for. I’m always looking for a mentor who can teach me things I want to learn, things I don’t currently know. I feel like after you work for a certain chef for so long, you kind of know their style, you know the techniques that they use, so at some point, it’s smart to move on and to cook and learn someone else’s set of skills.

letters of rec from executive chefs

“If there’s anybody who really executes a vision, it’s [Nate Hereford]. He’s super gracious about it, incredibly hard working and thoughtful about making sure that what I want gets translated onto the plate. He’s probably got the toughest job in our entire organization, because the pressure [at Niche]…each diner has such crazy expectations of what they’re going to get, and it all comes down on him, even though he doesn’t get credit for it a lot. For it not being your [restaurant], that’s certainly a tough job.” –Gerard Craft, owner and executive chef, Craft Restaurants Ltd.

“What Josh Poletti brings to The Libertine kitchen is a passion, sense of urgency and respect for the quality of food we want to execute. His attitude is infectious. The amount of work that Josh accomplishes would take two, maybe three regular cooks to complete. It’s actually easier to work in our kitchen with less people because of Josh, and then to combine that spatial freedom with his attitude just makes cooking around him fun. Then we start all over again with his attitude being infectious and forming a vicious cycle that makes everyone in the kitchen stay late cooking and talking about food!” –Josh Galliano, executive chef, The Libertine

“Throughout the four years I have worked with Ming [Liu] I have seen him grow leaps and bounds. He is meticulous and always wanting to learn. That same attitude is contagious in our kitchen, which has earned Ming a sous position at Sidney Street Cafe. Ming has been a pleasure to work beside and I appreciate his dedication to wanting to make good food.”

“Oh, my little Jess! She’s my star. Jess [Paddock] has been with us since the beginning – she was our second hire at Home Wine Kitchen. She has been through everything with us, even being the only server on our very first No Menu Monday. I call her my little soldier, and she is one of the strongest employees I have ever had. She started with us as a server, but I always encouraged her to step into the kitchen, and I am so proud of what she has accomplished. She always had the skill...she just needed to take ownership of her talent, and now that she has, it is incredible. She is creative, driven, dedicated, talented and always does what needs to be done. She is my right hand; I couldn’t do it without her.” –Cassy Vires, owner and executive chef, Home Wine Kitchen and Table

“I almost didn’t hire Ryan McDonald to be Juniper’s chef de cuisine, and that would have been the biggest mistake I could have made. To describe Ryan as passionate is true, but the blunt force of that word has been softened over the past few years because everyone these days is passionate about something. Ryan is fiercely committed. I have seen him come alive and be animated by the responsibility of running a kitchen, but more than that he is committed to the broader vision of Juniper. He has pushed himself to know more about Southern food and the historical culture that informs it. He has pushed us as a business to be even more dedicated to local, sustainable growers. He has patiently taught the kitchen staff and holds them to a high standard. He has, in short, been the perfect person to run our kitchen. There is tenaciousness to Ryan that I love very much. He is to the challenge of running a kitchen the way a wolf is to fresh meat: He has simply devoured it.” –John Perkins, owner and

owner and executive chef, Elaia and Olio, Old Standard and United Provisions

executive chef, Farmhaus

Sidney Street Cafe

“Josh [Charles] is without a doubt one of the strongest cooks in the city. He’s got it all: skill, technique, proficiency, execution, plating, etc. But Josh also has what so many cooks and chefs lack: A Spartan sense of mission and the discipline to get there. He runs an impeccable kitchen: clean, quiet, organized, polite. It’s definitely a huge achievement for me to be able to mentor someone as ambitious and talented, but also downright nice, as Josh. This kiddo will get places – and I’ll take some of the credit!” –Ben Poremba,


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MARCH SPECIAL Tues. – Sun. 4 – 8 p.m.


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executive chef, Juniper and Entre

“Watching Jamie [Everett] grow and go about things impresses me to no end. I count on him as the talented leader of our desserts, as a confident butcher in my absence and as a leader of the younger cooks and guests in our kitchen. He embraces challenges and sacrifices nearly all of his time to learn everything around him, and it’s infectious. But what really impresses me about this guy is his heart. Jamie is the first to help out one of his buddies or workmates; always the first to volunteer and always the last to punch out. Jamie is undeterred by failure and is genuine in his resolve to be better. I’ll never forget just how humble and respectful the first letter I received from Jamie [was], asking me to consider him for employment while he attended culinary school. It’s the same attitude and understanding that makes me excited about all of these future leaders, and helps them stand out: They get it.” –Kevin Willmann, owner and

–Kevin Nashan, owner and executive chef,

Belleville, IL

The Fox Theatre • March 18-30 314-534-1111 Inspired Food Culture

march 2014


the last bite


Photography by

Jonathan Gayman

Contributor: Valeria Turturro Klamm, Writer I have a dessert stomach. When my main-meal stomach is full, there seems to be an entirely different compartment set aside to make sure the meal ends on a sweet note (just ask my husband). Therefore dessert is never a matter of “if” for me but a question of “when?” Do I order dessert right after dinner? Do I grab something sweet on the way home? Or, on that wonderful rule-breaking occasion, do I order dessert first? I think the pleasure of dessert first is why brunch was created – to mix things up a bit. Perhaps the most indulgent of meals – and for me, the most fun – brunch combines sweet and savory effortlessly, as so perfectly demonstrated by the sweet beignets at Brasserie in the Central West End. Served with housemade fresh cheese and just-sweetenough dried plum compote, the pillowy bites of dough are the perfect sweet note to ease you out of the morning and into the rest of the day. Brasserie 4580 Laclede Ave., Central West End 314.454.0600 Check out more of Valeria’s work on p. 18, where she talks to Michael Del Pietro about his forthcoming restaurant, The Salted Pig in Frontenac.

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MARCH 2014

March 2014 FEAST Magazine  

FEAST Magazine delves into St. Louis' culinary scene for inspired ideas in cooking, the latest on restaurants, great gadgets, kitchen design...

March 2014 FEAST Magazine  

FEAST Magazine delves into St. Louis' culinary scene for inspired ideas in cooking, the latest on restaurants, great gadgets, kitchen design...