Chef Josh Galliano on His Rituals, Fried Chicken and Hating Jam Bands
At this point, saying that Josh Galliano is a rock star in the St. Louis (if not national) culinary scene is stating the obvious. If his status was not already solidified by his tenure at An American Place and Monarch, or his Best New Chef award from Food and Wine Magazine, then the overwhelming success of Galliano's new restaurant, the Libertine (7927 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-2999) seals the deal.
Now in its fifth month, this "neighborhood eatery" is basking in a well-deserved reputation as one of the area's most notable dining establishments. Galliano presents a menu that is both refined and playful with winks to his Louisiana heritage. On any given night, diners at the Libertine can see him personally delivering food to the tables and checking on guests, taking the time to genuinely engage diners.
Fresh on the heels of his 2013 RFT Readers' Choice win for Best Chef, we sat down with Galliano to chat about the state of the St. Louis food scene and found out along the way why he likens himself to a sunchoke.
What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did?
I feel like my life is pretty open and public knowledge. If anything, maybe that I have a master's in political science. Not that I'm using it, but it's a little different.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
My kitchen life is routinized -- Chocolate Milk Tuesdays, Popsicle Friday, Pastaria Donut Saturday, Ska Sundays. But every day, it would be my pour over coffee every morning, usually with whatever single-origin bean Kaldi's has in stock.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Teleportation so I wouldn't have to spend an hour driving to and from work.
What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
More of an awareness, acceptance and ability to focus on one item or service for a business. I'm mainly thinking about Sump Coffee or MOFU where they are reaching a level of perfection by narrowing their scope and fine-tuning their focus to produce an outstanding product.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
Qui Tran [Mai Lee]. He's cute and cooks the food that I want to eat every day. Oh, and [Eric] Ed Heath [Cleveland-Heath] too. Don't worry though. I keep them separated.
Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene?
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
By personality, do you mean slightly passive-aggressive, inability to establish boundaries and moody when there's no coffee around? I'm not sure there is a vegetable for that. Probably sunchoke. It's an oddball, pervasive, invasive veggie, and it will sneak up on your GI tract. It's also humble and completely at ease as a roasted vegetable or it plays well when all dolled up as a smooth puree.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say?
Incredibly collaborative and supportive. We are so lucky to have a community of diners, chefs, producers all working to put the best food on a plate. In other towns, it would be more cutthroat or backstabbing, while over here, you have people more along the lines of calling each other to get the phone number of a good farmer.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
Any album by Phish, Grateful Dead or String Cheese Incident.
Music is definitely an ingredient to get the work done, put cooks in a better mood, and make the drudgery less drudgery.
Durian would be a close second.
What is your after work hangout?
I tend to work very late and I drive a lot to get home. Thus, an after-work hangout doesn't really fit into my plans too much. If I were to go out, I'd rely upon the recommendations of my friend Matt Abeshouse and go for one of his favorite dive bars like McLain's.
What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
Barq's Red Crème Soda. I can down a twelve pack like it's my job.
What is your "death-row meal"?
Fried chicken. The real stuff, fried in a skillet with gravy and sides. Or Gus'.