Exclusive: Craft Reversing Course, Niche to Remain Niche

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Jennifer Silverberg
Gerard Craft at Brasserie by Niche
Gerard Craft will not relocate his flagship restaurant Niche to the adjacent Taste by Niche space, made available by the relocation of Taste to the Central West End, nor will he open an Italian restaurant in its place, the James Beard Award-nominated chef revealed exclusively to Gut Check this afternoon.

In addition, Niche will retain its established format and not shift to a one-seating, tasting-menu-only concept. The relocation of Taste and its sale to Adam Altnether will proceed as planned.

"We got a lot of pushback from our clientele, especially our regular clientele," Craft explains. While these regulars didn't object to his plan in total, they did balk at his "changing the creative side [of Niche] to something that would seat only twelve people and be pretty expensive."

Craft admits, "Maybe that's something I should've known all along and didn't pay attention to."

Practical business considerations also played into Craft's decision. Since announcing that he would turn the Niche space into a restaurant, called Porano, focusing on the cuisine of northern Italy, Truffles in Ladue has revealed plans to change its menu to similar fare, while Jim Fiala has brought the rustic Italian menu of his Maplewood restaurant Acero to his downtown venture, the Terrace View.

"I don't want to be the third northern Italian restaurant opening in January or February," Craft says. "Hopefully, it's not all for nothing -- hopefully [the Porano concept] gets to be used again -- but I'm not going to open a restaurant just to save face."

While acknowledging that his change of plans could be a "press catastrophe," Craft stresses that he is not simply falling back into the status quo ante at Niche: "Honestly, I've been in the [Niche] kitchen more than ever recently. We have a pretty solid chef at Brasserie by Niche -- it's one of the reasons I'm [now] only an investor in Taste.

"I'm very young I need to be in the kitchen every day pushing myself and my staff -- pushing more than we ever have."

Still, he adds, "These are rough times, and as we keep pushing and trying to reinvent ourselves, sometimes you can go a little too far. You have to be careful."

Among the changes planned for Niche in 2011 are a seven-day-a-week schedule. Monday, the one day a week when the restaurant is currently closed, will feature what Craft describes as a "supper kind of deal," with more comfort-oriented foods.

The restaurant also might add what Craft terms "a chef's counter" to showcase the longer, more experimental tasting menus as the relocated Niche would have.

To fans of Niche and his cooking, Craft says, simply, "I hope they don't lose faith in everything we're trying to do."

Location Info

Niche

7734 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, MO

Category: Restaurant


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9 comments
Jmulliganinc
Jmulliganinc

The Niche concept is still pretty unique.No Need to change there.I need a reason to come to St Louis.Don't change.

Jason
Jason

Thank GOD! I was so worried.

c.
c.

".... I fell in love at Niche with fragrance, flavor and the concept of forever" Goes to show the more things change the more fine things stay the same! c.

skoz
skoz

Now you're talking. This is a wise move all around - rather than downsize the flagship, use the space vacated by Taste to do the "chefs counter"/tasting menu format, and add something new to the Niche menu mix with different offerings on different days. Also, Taste should do quite well in CWE.

Insaintlouiscity1972
Insaintlouiscity1972

Fine Dining is an extremely tough business in this town. Gerard is smart for rethinking his concept change. I am not sure what the formula is for creating a profitable fine dining restaurant is. Hopefully he will figure it out.

TTT
TTT

Good news on two fronts: 1) Niche will still be there for us as we like it and 2) Terrace View is getting a makeover as needed. Good stuff Ian.

Eric
Eric

Interesting... I have no real arguments with the Niche kingdom changing or staying the same, since it's always handled well. If the worst-case scenario is Gerard Craft waking up in a month and continuing to have the most highly acclaimed local restaurant in the same general configuration in which it's been receiving its high acclaim, I don't think that's anything to complain about!

Eric
Eric

Is Taste still moving? If so, has it moved next to Brasserie yet?

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