How Chefs Cook with Unripe Fruits, Vegetables

by Bon Appetit, Leah Koenig

If you’ve ever eaten a fried green tomato, that crackly-crusted round of tangy, late summer deliciousness, you already understand the genius of cooking with immature produce. But that’s just the beginning—right now, chefs across the country are challenging the notion that ripe equals right by incorporating all kinds of green fruit, nuts, and vegetables, onto their menus.

Unlike their fully mature counterparts, which are all about sweetness and juice, these tender-footed fruits and vegetables add sour and bitter notes to sweet and savory dishes alike. Here are six unripe ingredients that prove why, sometimes, eating off-peak produce can be just the right thing.

Green Almonds
What they are: Crisp, tart, and covered in downy fuzz like a peach, green almonds can be eaten whole, from the sea-foam-green husk to the tender, milky kernel. They have the watery snap and bright, tangy flavor of a green apple, with just a whisper of almond-y bitterness. In the Middle East, where almond trees grow in abundance, the immature drupes are dipped in salt and oil and eaten as a snack.

How chefs use them: At New York City’s Lincoln Ristorante, chef Jonathan Benno batters and fries soft-shell crab, and serves it with pickled fennel, caper berries, lemon aioli, and—the real kicker—pickled green almonds. The almonds, which he sources from growers in California (“the first time I worked with them was at the The French Laundry,” Benno said), add an element of surprise and intrigue. They also bring a unique flavor reminiscent of fresh cucumber, fennel, and celery. Benno extends the almonds’ season by pickling them in a brine made from water, white vinegar, salt, dill, garlic, and jalapeño.

Use them at home: Since green almonds’ growing window is quite short—typically about six to eight weeks in late spring and early summer—Benno suggests that home cooks pickle and preserve them to use at a later date, like he does at Lincoln. Raw or pickled, the almonds can be sliced into salads or fresh salsa. They also make a fantastic addition to a cheese plate, paired with grassy goat cheeses and melty triple crèmes.

Green Strawberries
What they are: Color-wise, green is a bit of a misnomer here; the unripe version of early summer’s favorite berry is more of a pale, emerald-twinged gold than a true green. But the taste (think the love child of a kiwi and a lemon) and gentle cucumber firmness perfectly embody a sense of bright, ultra-fresh “green-ness.”

Foie gras torchon with green strawberries from Sidney Street Cafe

How chefs use them: Green strawberries are quickly approaching cult-like status amongst chefs. At the Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis, Missouri, chef Kevin Nashan livens up a foie gras torchon with green strawberry leather and pickled green strawberries. “They lend themselves to so many applications, from pickling to grilling and juicing, and give dishes an unexpected pop,” he said. In the foie gras dish, he said, green strawberries add a welcome vegetal flavor that helps cut through the richness.

Use them at home: Nashan said he loves using green strawberries in combination with rhubarb when making a pie. No doubt a cobbler or homemade jam would also benefit from a hit of green strawberry’s tang. Bonus: If you have a dehydrator, Nashan suggests drying out green strawberries and pairing them with fully ripened strawberries and greens for a salad with layered depth.

Green Papayas
What they are: Thanks to Americans’ longstanding love affair with Thai food, green papaya has gained notoriety as the base of the slaw-like salad, som tum. As it matures, papaya takes on an aggressive orange color and musky flavor. But early on in its ripening journey, it tastes very mild with just a touch of floral sweetness. Looks-wise, its smooth, waxy skin resembles a lime peel, and the pale flesh is crisp with the slightly spongy texture of zucchini.

How chefs use them: In New Orleans, Commander’s Palace chef Tory McPhail moves beyond salad to create a bold green papaya ceviche. Mixed with snapper or mahi mahi sourced from the Gulf, and tarted up with lime juice and Malibu rum, the green fruit ceviche is served with crispy unripe plantain chips (more on those below) and Louisiana hot sauce. McPhail said he loves using papaya at all of its stages, from green to overly ripe, when its juice is perfect for cocktails. For this dish, he said, green papaya’s firm texture is preferable.

Use them at home: Try your hand at julienning the fruit for a green papaya salad, or use the thin strands in the place of noodles. Green papaya can also act as a killer meat tenderizer: purée it in the food processor, then add a tablespoon or so to a pound of ground meat for extra tender kebabs.

Unripe Plantains
What they are: Unlike their vilified cousin, the dry-mouth-inducing green banana, plantains are beloved in both their ripe and unripe forms. The immature version is firm and starchy with a mild flavor akin to potatoes. Not surprisingly, they are treated similarly to spuds, especially in Latin American cuisine, where they are fried into chips or smashed into mofongo with garlic and other savory ingredients.

How chefs use them: As with papaya, texture is McPhail’s favorite aspect of unripe plantains. In the papaya ceviche dish, they add a crunchy base that perfectly complements the bright, tender fruit. “With so many different textures on one plate, your palate does not get tired,” he said.

Use them at home: McPhail said home cooks should try making green plantain chips and use them as a substitute for corn chips in an updated take on homemade nachos (make sure to use a mandolin to get the slices extra thin). They can also be mashed, filled with cheese, and fried into dumplings.

Green Plums
What they are: As glossy and green as a Granny Smith, but about a fifth of the size, unripe plums are eaten throughout the Middle East and Asia. When raw, they are intensely sour and crunchy. Pickling them softens their flesh and dulls their grassy color, but adds a bright acidity and extends their short early summer season.

How chefs use them: At Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts, chef de cuisine Carl Dooley layers hiramasa (yellowtail amberjack) sashimi with house-made yogurt, fresh mint, and “little sexy slices of pickled green plum,” which he sources from a nearby Armenian market. “Whether they are paired with raw fish or charred lamb, pickled green plums have this way of pushing and pulling other ingredients’ flavors,” he said. “The sour and floral notes balance out fat and richness really well.”

Use them at home: With an ingredient as unusual as pickled green plums, Dooley suggests letting them shine in simple dishes. Try slicing them thin and pairing them with vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey. Green plums can also be added to salads or, like rhubarb, cooked down with sugar into a sweet and sour compote.

Fresh Chickpeas
What they are: For anyone accustomed to seeing chickpeas dried or poured from a can, fresh chickpeas, which can be found at farmers’ markets across the country, come as a surprise. The first shock: They are as green as new tree leaves, from their wispy edamame-like pods to the inner legume themselves. Their mildly sweet flavor and hint of nuttiness are equally surprising—and delightful.

How chefs use them: Chef Lee Gross at M Café, a contemporary macrobiotic restaurant in Los Angeles, constructs a hearty salad out of blanched green chickpeas, pearl barley, asparagus, and a lemon-tarragon vinaigrette. “I love how unusual fresh chickpeas are,” he said. “They have the verdant sweetness of a fresh green pea, but the dense creaminess and rugged good looks of a chickpea.” Thanks to his Cali locale, Gross is able to find fresh chickpeas at the farmers’ market from early spring through midsummer.

Use them at home: “Think of them like English peas,” Gross suggested. “Eat them raw, straight from the pods, or lightly steam them.” Fresh chickpeas add heft to stir-fry and curry dishes, and protein to guacamole and salads.

Favorite Restaurant: Sidney Street Cafe

by Sauce Magazine, Meera Nagarajan


Kevin Nashan took over Sidney Street Cafe in 2003. Here he reflects on the lessons he’s learned running the beloved Benton Park restaurant for the past decade.

The greatest lesson Sidney Street cafe has taught me?
Listening to my wife, my brother, back of the house, front of the house, customers. It helps you grow. It makes you better.

The first time we put foie gras on th.e menu, we were so excited and nobody ordered it. Another time, we did a mackerel dish and we loved it, but customers didn’t get it. A year later? Customers wanted it. Sometimes they’re ready, and sometimes they’re not. You have to listen.

Honestly, it’s harder to take over a restaurant because the expectations are so high. You know what’s worked and what hasn’t. You just don’t know if you should change anything. It takes time and a little courage.

When we took over Sidney Street, we were under a microscope, but we knew people would show up because there was an existing clientele. With Peacemaker (Nashan’s new restaurant to open In the coming weeks), we get to be creative instantly with the food. There’s no model to follow.

You always want to re-polish. Before I make a vichyssoise I research it because there’s always room for improvement. You want to respect your craft and the way you do that is by doing your homework.

STL’s Provel vs. KC barbecue

by St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ian Froeb

Chef Kevin Nashan works at Sidney Street Cafe

Chef Kevin Nashan works in the kitchen at the Sidney Street Cafe on Wednesday morning, April 9, 2014. Nashan has been nominated for a James Beard Award. Behind him is cook Justin McMillen. Photo by J.B. Forbes,

Gerard Craft is the name most associated with contemporary dining in St. Louis. His flagship restaurant, Niche (, offers upscale New American cuisine. Next-door to Niche in Clayton is the casual, family-friendly Pastaria (, which serves terrific pasta and Neapolitan-style pizza.

The past two years have been especially strong for new spots, including a new home for the Louisiana stylings of locally beloved chef Josh Galliano at the Libertine ( In a quiet corner of the otherwise bustling Central West End neighborhood is another Southern-food gem, Juniper (

Ben Poremba serves refined Mediterranean-influenced cuisine at Elaia (, located near the Missouri Botanical Garden. The adjacent wine bar, Olio (, inside a renovated 1920s gas station, serves snacks and small plates.

An established restaurant that continues to draw acclaim (and crowds) is Sidney Street Cafe ( in Benton Park. Owner Kevin Nashan is without a doubt the most respected chef among his St. Louis peers.

St. Louis might not enjoy the same national reputation for barbecue as Kansas City, but the area has experienced a ‘cue boom in recent years. Pappy’s Smokehouse ( in midtown is the epicenter of the renaissance; a favorite of Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, it’s famous for its ribs.

Pappy’s pitmaster Skip Steele also operates Bogart’s Smoke House ( in Soulard, which features incredible ribs and smoked prime rib. For Texas-worthy beef brisket, head to Sugarfire Smokehouse (

No visit to St. Louis would be complete without trying one of the city’s unique foods. St. Louis-style pizza from Imo’s Pizza (the original and most famous vendor, is distinguished by its cracker-thin crust and love-it-or-hate-it Provel cheese. Follow that up with one St. Louis’ two famous desserts: a frozen-custard concrete from Ted Drewes Frozen Custard or gooey butter cake from Park Avenue Coffee or Gooey Louie.

The BLT Variations

by The Wall Street Journal, Matthew Kronsberg

In one sandwich lies the formula for infinite deliciousness. Try these five recipes for riffs on the classic, swapping out the bacon, lettuce and tomato for new combinations that are both surprising and satisfying

EVEN IF YOU DON’T KNOW the first thing about playing an instrument, you’re probably intuitively familiar with the I, IV, V chord progression. It is the basis of countless pop, rock, blues and country songs—everything from “Let It Be” and “Wild Thing” to John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” and even “Home on the Range.” The progression is made great not by any particular notes, but rather by how they relate to each other, and how well they take to embellishment.

Think of the BLT as the I, IV, V progression of food—basic and familiar, yet incredibly flexible. The magic of the sandwich is not so much in the specific ingredients as in how they complement one another: the bright, sweet tang and squish of tomato balanced by the salty crunch of bacon; the fresh, vegetal quality of lettuce, which throws both bacon and tomato into relief. Roasted red pepper, arugula and guanciale is really just a BLT set in a different key.

A whole new repertoire of sandwiches is at your fingertips once you understand the interplay between the elements. You can riff infinitely, swapping in new combinations of ingredients—a skill that will be especially useful this summer, since an unseasonably cool, damp spring will surely push prime tomato season back.

FOR BACON, SWAP IN: merguez / gribenes / eggplant ‘bacon’ / pork rinds / seared cauliflower

FOR ICEBERG LETTUCE, SWAP IN: Boston lettuce / sorrel / arugula / kimchi

FOR TOMATO, SWAP IN: butternut squash / beets / roasted red pepper / rhubarb / pickled raisins

PKR (Pork-Rind, Kimchi and Rhubarb)

Kevin Nashan uses rhubarb mayo and kimchi to conjure the sweetness and earthiness of tomato.

Total Time: 15 minutes Serves: 2

Make rhubarb mayonnaise: In a food processor or blender, purée 1 stalk rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch sections, 1½ teaspoons sorghum syrup or molasses, 1½ teaspoons Chipotle Tabasco sauce, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup mayonnaise until smooth.

Assemble sandwich: Spread 4 slices untoasted white bread with rhubarb mayo. Divide ½ cup kimchi, julienned, 1 bunch watercress and 1½ cups pork rinds between half of bread slices, then top with remaining slices.


Live Coverage of Monday’s James Beard Awards, 2 St. Louis Chefs in Running

by Feast

PHOTOS Sidney Street Café Chef Kevin Nashan's

Sidney Street Café chef Kevin Nashan (left) with Niche chef Gerard Craft at a Magnificent Missouri dinner.

In March, we reported that two St. Louis chefs — Sidney Street Café’s Kevin Nashan and Niche’s Gerard Craft — landed on the finalist list for the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 James Beard Awards in the Best Chef: Midwest category.

The annual awards recognize chefs and restaurants across the United States, and this year’s ceremony to announce the winners takes place on Mon., May 5, at 6pm in Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater in New York City.

Feast publisher Cat Neville will be in attendance and live tweeting throughout the evening. Follow Cat on Twitter at @cat_neville and Feast at @feastmag for the latest from the ceremony!

Nashan and Craft are among six chefs nominated in the Best Chef: Midwest category:

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Justin Aprahamian, Sanford, Milwaukee
Paul Berglund, The Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis
Gerard Craft, Niche, Clayton, MO
Michelle Gayer, Salty Tart, Minneapolis
Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Café, St. Louis
Lenny Russo, Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market, St. Paul, MN

We caught up with Nashan back in March when he first received the news, and he told us: “What a day …. All I can say besides ‘floored’ is grateful and proud of my team at Sidney Street Cafe.” Asked about what this meant for the St. Louis food scene as a whole and the increased national attention, Nashan said, “Well, those drums are just beating a little louder today.”

Craft told Feast that, “It is a pretty amazing feeling to be nominated, especially when there are so many amazing people on the list.”

“St. Louis has been pushing for a while now and like anything great it takes time to see the results. I think everything that everyone has planted is just starting to break through the soil,” Craft said.

Savor Nashville

by Nashville Lifestyles


Nashville Lifestyles’ Presents


Celebrity Chef Dinner – A seven-course dinner with wine pairings by our James Beard nominated celebrity chefs.

in Partnership with the Celebrity Chef Tour

Thursday, May 29 at Hutton Hotel
Doors open at 6 p.m., Dinner begins promptly at 7 p.m.

Frank Bonanno of Mizuna and Luca d’Italia in Denver
Gerard Craft of Pastaria in St. Louis
Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Hudson Valley New York
Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis
Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman of Hog and Hominy and Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis
Charles Phillips of 1808 Grille in the Hutton Hotel

Sponsored by: City National Bank, The Doug Jeffords Co., Inc., Ford Lincoln of Franklin, Frigidaire with Electronic Express, Hutton Hotel, Haymakers & Co, Rosemary Beach, Rumours Wine Bar and Yelp.

5 Chefs Geek Out About Their Favorite Cars, And Talk Food-Crazed Road Trips

by Food Republic

It’s NY Auto Show Week, and chefs want in too.

For those of us in the food world who happen to be car geeks, the New York International Auto Show is like the Aspen Food and Wine Festival. The annual showcase for the automotive world kicks off this Friday and runs through April 27 at the Javits Center in Manhattan. As we’re getting amped up to see the latest Audis, Benzes and Cadillacs, we asked 5 chefs from around the US to tell us about their current rides, their dream cars and the best food-related road trips they’ve ever taken. Check it out.

Kevin Nashan, chef/owner, Sidney Street Cafe (St. Louis, MO)

What kind of car do you currently drive and how do you feel about it?
[Chevy] Suburban. I love it!!

What’s the best car you’ve ever owned and what happened to it?
Either my Suburban or Toyota Land Cruiser — both are built like tanks! The Land Cruiser I sold when I moved to NYC.

What’s your dream car and why?
Either an IH scout, or a 356 Porsche (1948)

What’s in your trunk and what’s in your glove compartment?
No trunk. In the glove compartment I currently have insurance papers, change, scissors to cut herbs and other edible stuff, a book on wild edibles…..

What’s the best food road trip you’ve ever taken in a car (and which kind of car)?
There have been many. Probably the best one in recent memory was last summer. I took my brother and five of my cooks to Chicago for one day. We ate at the Slurping Turtle, Yusho, Au Cheval, Trencherman, Publican, Big Star, GT Fish and Oyster and then for dessert we did a full vegan tasting menu at Next. Oh and by the way this was to and from in one day, all in the Suburban.

A Chefs’ Guide To St. Louis

by Find. Eat. Drink.

WHAT: A city with no county, one of only 41 in the US.
WHERE: Located on the west bank of the Mississippi River.
NICKNAME: The Gateway City.
LOCAL EATS: BBQ ribs and crispy snouts calls “snoots.”
LOCAL SWEETS: The concrete at Ted Drewes.
BRING HOME: Locally-made charcuterie from Salume Beddu.

Gateway to the West, this city on the mighty Mississippi will keep you busy exploring the different neighborhoods with plenty of choices for eating and drinking.


Chef Kevin Nashan

Chef and owner of Sidney Street Cafe, his cuisine is inspired by his Spanish heritage, his childhood in Santa Fe and his classic French training. He worked at Daniel in New York before opening his own restaurant in St. Louis. He has been named a semifinalist for the James Beard Award multiple times, won the 2013 Cochon 555 Barbecue competition in St. Louis and has cooked for President Barack Obama.

Chef Gerard Craft

Chef and owner of four St. Louis spots: New American restaurant Niche, casual pizza and pasta place Pastaria, Parisian-inspired Brasserie and cocktail bar Taste. Craft has been nominated for a James Beard Best Chef: Midwest Award five times and was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs.

Chef Josh Galliano

Chef and co-owner of The Libertine. A Louisiana native, he moved to St. Louis after working at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and Daniel in New York. Named one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chef: Midwest and nominated multiple times for the James Beard Best Chef: Midwest award.


You’ll get your glazed, fritter, custard, jelly, Long John and the rest of the classics. But don’t overlook their unique creations like chicken and waffle, pizza, hog burger, strange bacon, and gooey butter donut. Chef Kevin Nashan loves that they work with local restaurants. “They collaborate with the restaurants all over the city to create weekly donuts inspired by favorite dishes of those restaurants. They recently did a pho donut with Mai Lee’s!”

2709 Sutton Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63143
T: 314.932.5851 |

Josh Galliano calls this “one of the best salami shops in town.” Kevin Nashan recommends you come here “for their charcuterie. This is a pork lover’s paradise. They make delicious salumi utilizing the pigs in our backyards.” They also make sandwiches.

3467 Hampton Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63139
T: 314.353.3100 |


Breakfast | Brunch

Kevin Nashan recommends you come here to start your day with a hearty breakfast and your choice of espresso, pour-over, or cold-brew coffee. For lunch, you can order sandwiches, burgers or salads. They also serve tea, beer, wine and cocktails.

8133 Maryland Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105
T: 314.725.0719|



“For their hot homemade salumi de testa sammy,” recommends Kevin Nashan. This is an Italian deli with lots of sandwich options, hot and cold. You pick the bread, next the cheese, the filler, garnish, condiment and the side dish.

1934 Macklind Avenue, St. Louis 63110
T: 314.776.9410 |



Memphis-style barbecue that is always top of chefs’ lists of where to eat. “For ribs. It is life changing,” says Gerard Craft. Josh Galliano loves the ribs and the smoked turkey, “The quality is unbelievable and the consistency is just unreal, especially when they’re serving thousands of people every day.” Kevin Nashan agrees, “The ribs are a must try. This is one of my favorite restaurants, because the food makes you want to give somebody a hug afterwards.”

3106 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63103
T: 314.535.4340 |


A counter and carry out barbecue joint that opened in the late 1990s. Known for their pig snouts, locally called “snoots,” as well as their rib tips. They are cured with cayenne pepper and salt. They aren’t fried, but they are doused with lots of barbecue sauce.

1545 N Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102
T: 314.621.8180 |


Josh Galliano picks this smokehouse because, “they’re thinking about barbecue very much outside the normal stuff.” He also loves the barbecue pastrami made in their smoker. “They’ll do cool things like make their own ham and use it to make a Cuban sandwich. Their beans are phenomenal. I love the sides, which is where most barbecue restaurants fail.”

1627 S 9th Street, St Louis, MO 63104
T: 314.621.3107 |



“Head here for the ‘St. Paul Sammy’ and the best darn pho ever,” says Kevin Nashan. “This is an everyday desire and the pho is really special.” Owner Lee Tran left Vietnam in 1980 and moved to St. Louis where she worked as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant. Five years later, she opened Mai Lee, but originally only served Chinese food. Slowly, she introduced Vietnamese dishes on her menu and today you’ll find an extensive list of classic Vietnamese dishes and a few remaining Chinese ones. They are all cooked by her son, chef Qui Tran. Josh Galliano describes the food as “phenomenal” and strongly suggests ordering the Salt and Pepper Calamari.”

8396 Musick Memorial Drive, St. Louis, MO 63144
T: 314.645.2835 |

James Beard Nominated Chefs’ Restaurants

Chef Kevin Nashan and dinner at Sidney Street Cafe
Photograph courtesy of Sidney Street Cafe

“This is one of those blow-out restaurants where, from start to finish, you’re well taken care of,” says Josh Galliano about fellow chef Kevin Nashan’s New American restaurant. Nashan calls his place “fun, delicious, and no fuss.” and says, “It’s thoughtful cooking using our Midwest ingredients. We hear from a lot of people that they’ve celebrated every anniversary or special occasion with us, yet it’s also somewhere you could just walk in and grab a quick bite at the bar. I love our Rabbit & Waffles dish served with sorghum/mustard ice cream, and Pad Thai Sweetbreads.”

2000 Sidney Street, St. Louis, MO 63104
T: 314.771.5777 (Book a Table) |


Chef Gerard Craft is creating destination dining and his restaurant is considered one of the top in the country. You can order à la carte or the tasting menu. Kevin Nashan puts this New American restaurant on his recommendation list because, “it’s where I’d take a visiting chef for inspiring and delicious food.”

7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton, MO
T: 314.773.7755 (Reserve Here) |

Dessert | Ice Cream

Ted Drewes opened his first ice cream store in Florida in 1929 and in 1931 he opened in St. Louis. The custard is different from traditional ice cream because of the butterfat, egg yolk and amount of air which gives it a more silky and smooth texture. Kevin Nashan loves their ultra thick milk shakes, “The concrete always puts a smile on my face.”

4224 S Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63111 | T: 314.352.7376
6726 Chippewa Street, St. Louis, MO 63109 | T: 314.481.2652




“The coffee is spectacular,” says Josh Galliano. “The owner Scott is a perfectionist. He wants you to be engaged with the whole process, to know what you’re drinking, why you’re drinking it, why he bought that coffee bean from this small roaster.” Kevin Nashan agrees, “I love Sump. They’ve changed the coffee game forever in the Lou, it’s amazing.”

3700 S Jefferson Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63118
T: 917.412.5670 |


Two St. Louis chefs named finalists for James Beard Award

by St. Louis Business Journal, E.B. Solomont

Gerard Craft of Niche and Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe are among the nominees for the James Beard Foundation Award’s Best Chef: Midwest award.

The seven nominees, whittled down from a pool of 20 semifinalists, were named Tuesday. Previously, the foundation announced semifinalists last month for the food industry’s top honor. Other nominees for Best Chef: Midwest are Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee; Paul Berglund of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis; Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart in Minneapolis; and Lenny Russo, chef/owner of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market in Saint Paul, Minn.

In February, six St. Louis chefs and one restaurant were named semifinalists in various categories: Taste, at 4584 Laclede Ave., was a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program. Chef Rick Lewis, of Quincy Street Bistro, was named a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year. In the Best Chef: Midwest category, Craft and Nashan were joined by Ben Poremba of Elaia, Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus, and Josh Galliano of The Libertine.

The foundation received 40,000 submissions and narrowed down a list of semifinalists, which were announced last month. The smaller pool of nominees will compete for the final awards, which are to be announced May 2 and May 5 in New York City.

Esquire TV’s Knife Fight Renewed with Epic Chef Lineup

by Eater, Erin DeJesus

The Esquire Network’s underground, after-hours culinary competition Knife Fight gets a renewal for its second season, and its competing chef line-up gets a major upgrade for season two, premiering Tuesday, April 15. Like last season, each episode pits two chefs in a head-to-head cooking battle at host Ilan Hall’s Los Angeles restaurant The Gorbals.

But as Hall tells Eater, season two’s contenders — including Sue Zemanick, Tim Love, Traci des Jardins, Chris Shepherd, Kevin Gillespie, Mark Peel, and Charles Phan — bring “a lot of chef power” that allows the show to stretch beyond familiar Los Angeles faces. “I feel like the industry has embraced the show — they connect with it because it’s in a restaurant, and taking away the prize really brings things down, like an exhibition fight or skating match,” Hall says. “There’s nothing to prove, so people just let down their guard and go for the gusto. Chefs that I know, they love it because it’s more their speed.”

While celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Elijah Wood made appearances in season one, the rotating line-up of judges — episode one’s battle between Tim Love and Mike Isabella will be judged by Kris Morningstar and Naomi Pomeroy — features more chef faces this time around. “The fights that came out best were when chefs were judging other chefs, because there’s a mutual respect there that you can’t really replicate,” Hall says. Also new for season two: Friendly wagers (including some “disgusting ones”) between competing chefs, which Hall swears were “completely not driven by production. The chefs that are really close with each other, they want to up the stakes. They’re all very competitive, so even though they’re good friends, they’re there for fun, they still want to win.”

What does remain the same, however, is the show’s use of legitimate ingredients — “no strawberry milk powder, no Skittles” — and the fact that it’s all for fun (and bragging rights). Says Hall: “We have a combination of Michelin star [owners], James Beard Award-winners, Food & Wine Best New Chefs, and still the only prize is a shitty knife.” The complete line-up, below:

Knife Fight Season 2 Chefs

· Anthony Strong, Locanda Osteria, San Francisco vs. Charles Phan, The Slanted Door, San Francisco
· Benjamin Bettinger, Imperial, Portland, OR vs. Patrick McKee, Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar, Portland, OR
· Brian Huskey, Paiche, LA vs. Mei Lin, Ink, LA
· Chris Shepherd, Underbelly, Houston vs. Brooke Williamson, Tripel/Hudson House, LA
· Edi Frauneder, Edi and the Wolf, NYC vs. Wolfgang Ban, Edi and the Wolf, NYC
· Eric Park, Black Hogg, LA vs. Kevin Gillespie, Gunshow, Atlanta
· Freddy Vargas, Scarpetta, Beverly Hills, CA vs. Justin Wills, Restaurant Beck, Depoe Bay, OR
· Greg Denton, Ox, Portland, OR vs. Jason Wilson, Crush, Seattle
· Jason Paluska, The Lark, Santa Barbara vs. Kyle Itani, Hopscotch, SF
· Jessica Christensen, City Tavern, LA vs. Kevin Luzande, Acabar, LA
· John Gorham & Kasey Mills, Toro Bravo/Tasty & Sons, Portland vs. David Lentz & Kris Longley, Hungry Cat, LA
· Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans vs. Michael Bryant, Churchill, LA
· Kevin Nashan, Sidney St. Café, St. Louis vs. Harold Moore, Commerce, NYC
· Mark Peel, Campanile, LA vs. Salvatore “Sal” Marino, Il Grano, LA
· Michael Smith, Michael Smith/Extra Virgin, St. Louis vs. Adam Sappington, The Country Cat, Portland, OR
· Michael Teich, The Wallace, LA vs. Johnny Zone, La Poubelle, LA
· Ricardo Diaz & Tony Alcazar, Bizarra Capital, Whittier, CA vs. Gilberto Cetina Jr. & Daniel Elkins, Chichen Itza, LA
· Ricardo Zarate, Picca/Mo-chica/Paiche, LA vs. Ray Garcia, FIG, LA
· Steve Redzikowski, Acorn/Oak at Fourteenth, Denver vs. Kelly Liken, Kelly Liken, Vail, CO
· Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans vs. Tory McPhail, Commander’s Palace, New Orleans
· Tandy Wilson, City House, Nashville
 vs. Kelly English, Iris, Memphis
· Tim Love, Love Shack, Lonesome Dove, Woodshed, Fort Worth, TX vs. Mike Isabella, Graffiato, Washington, DC
· Tin Vuong, Abigaile, LA vs. Perry Cheung, Phorage, LA
· Traci des Jardins, Jardiniere, San Francisco vs. Mary Sue Milliken, Border Grill, LA