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, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Gerard Craft is the name most associated with contemporary dining in St. Louis. His flagship restaurant, Niche (nichestlouis.com), offers upscale New American cuisine. Next-door to Niche in Clayton is the casual, family-friendly Pastaria (pastariastl.com), 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 (libertinestl.com). In a quiet corner of the otherwise bustling Central West End neighborhood is another Southern-food gem, Juniper (junipereat.com).

Ben Poremba serves refined Mediterranean-influenced cuisine at Elaia (elaiastl.com), located near the Missouri Botanical Garden. The adjacent wine bar, Olio (oliostl.com), 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 (sidneystreetcafe.com) 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 (pappyssmokehouse.com) 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 (bogartssmokehouse.com) in Soulard, which features incredible ribs and smoked prime rib. For Texas-worthy beef brisket, head to Sugarfire Smokehouse (sugarfiresmokehouse.com).

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, imospizza.com) 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

Savor-eventlisting

Nashville Lifestyles’ Presents

SAVOR NASHVILLE

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.

FEATURING:
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.
LOCAL DRINKS: Craft Beer.
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.

THE PROS

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.

FIND.

STRANGE DONUTS
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 | www.strangedonuts.tumblr.com

SALUME BEDDU
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 | www.salumebeddu.com

EAT.

Breakfast | Brunch

HALF & HALF
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| www.halfandhalfstl.com

Lunch

GIOIA’S DELI

“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 | www.gioiasdeli.com

BBQ

PAPPY’S SMOKEHOUSE

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 | www.pappyssmokehouse.com

SMOKI O’S

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 | www.smokiosbbq.com

BOGART’S SMOKEHOUSE

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 | www.bogartssmokehouse.com

Dinner

MAI LEE

“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 | maileerestaurant.com

James Beard Nominated Chefs’ Restaurants

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

SIDNEY STREET CAFE | CHEF KEVIN NASHAN
“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) | www.sidneystreetcafe.com

NICHE | CHEF GERARD CRAFT

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) | www.nichestlouis.com

Dessert | Ice Cream

TED DREWES FROZEN CUSTARD
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
www.teddrewes.com

DRINK.

Coffee

SUMP COFFEE

“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 | www.sumpcoffee.com

 

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

Six small cities with big food scenes

by USA Today, Megan Pacella

If you’re looking for a town with culinary zeal, you don’t have to head to a big metropolis. Tucked away in mountain towns, seaside hamlets and Midwestern cities lie hidden culinary gems, including upscale dining, local coffee shops and delicious microbrews. Food meccas like New York and San Francisco have nothing on these small city food scenes:

St. Louis

The Gateway to the West has earned a place on the map of great food cities. This designation is in part thanks to Chef Gerard Craft, a James Beard Best Chef nominee and owner of Niche, which focuses on the elegant side of Midwestern fare with dishes like celery root soup and filet of beef with acorn squash. At Farmhaus, chef Kevin Willmann and his team offer up amazing creations with fish and market vegetables. Kevin Nashan at Sidney Street Café offers upscale menu items, like the Uni Boillabaise and Black Trumpet and Oyster Mushrooms, in an unpretentious atmosphere. Other picks for a delicious culinary trip include Sump for pour-over coffee, Mai Lee for Vietnamese, and Civil Life or Urban Chestnut for local microbrews.

1394480391004-Sidney-Ext-1

Sidney Street Cafe is located in a century-old building in St. Louis’s historic Benton Park neighborhood.  Sidney Street Cafe

1394480391002-interior-2

 The restaurant’s upscale menu and unpretentious atmosphere is a neighborhood staple.  Cardin Photography

 1394480391005-Sidney-Street-Cafe-GRP7800

 Chef Kevin Nashan’s Eel and Uni Bouillabaisse is made with cauliflower puree, uni bottarga, pickled shrimp and rouille crostini topped with backyard kale.  Greg Rannells 

1394480390000-Charred-Meyer-Lemon-Semi-Freddo

Featured is the charred Meyer lemon semi freddo.  Sidney Street Cafe

1394480390001-Duck

Duck is presented on a platter at Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis, Mo.  Cardin Photography 

Next Wave

by Feast, Liz Miller and Catherine Neville

 5310fbd432105.preview-620

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; and Nate Hereford, chef de cuisine, Niche

5310fc061e0cc.preview-620

 Ming Liu, Sidney Street Cafe

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.

The panel:
• 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

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?

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 pop-ups 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.

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

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: 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.