Chef Chat: Mary Boehne Is a Strange Kind of Pastry Chef

Categories: Chef Chat

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Chef Mary Boehne of Strange Donuts. | Noah Besheer

"I'm a pastry chef's worst nightmare," Mary Boehne laughs. "I don't measure things all of the time. I've gotten really good at eyeballing. I probably shouldn't admit this."
Perhaps it's this irreverence that led Boehne to leave her job as pastry chef at the Four Seasons to take on her new role as corporate chef for start-up-minded Strange Donuts (2709 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-932-5851). It wouldn't be the first time she has made such a move.

After graduating from Forest Park's culinary school, Boehne worked at St. Louis Country Club, and then left that position for the anarchist Black Bear Bakery. "It comes down to the fact that I prefer to be in an environment where I feel like I am more connected to the overall picture," Boehne explains. "I like smaller-scale situations where I know that my decisions are having a direct impact on the business."

See Also: Women Chefs of St. Louis Talk About Whether Gender Matters in the Kitchen [Q&A]


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Chef Chat: D. Scott Phillips Is Balaban's Resident Artist

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Chef D. Scott Phillips of Balaban's. | Courtesy of Carol Miller for Balaban's

Modifications and special requests? "No problem," says chef D. Scott Phillips of Balaban's (1772 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield; 636-449-6700). In fact, he encourages people to ask for what they want. "I love it when people come to me and say, 'I had this dish at this one place years ago,' and ask if I can recreate it for them."

See Also: Balaban's Wine Dinners Shine the Spotlight on Little-Known Vintners



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Chef Chat: Bixby's New Chef Corey Ellsworth on Going from Dishwasher to the Boss

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Chef Corey Ellsworth of Bixby's Restaurant at the Missouri History Museum. | Sara Ketterer

Chef Corey Ellsworth didn't realize his dishwashing gig in Bloomington, Illinois, would lead to a stint working for Thomas Keller's mentor. He was just an angsty seventeen-year-old looking to make some cash. That was, until over the din of clanking plates and the dish machine, he paid attention to the guys and gals working the restaurant's line. He was captivated.

See Also: Bixby's Named One of the Best Brunches in America

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Chef Chat: Grace Dinsmoor on Going from Jell-O Shots to Gourmet

Categories: Chef Chat

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Grace Dinsmoor (far right) shares a laugh with her colleagues. | Corey Woodruff

Ask Grace Dinsmoor why she cooks, and she'll tell you that it isn't really a choice. "I'm a chef by blood," she says. This doesn't mean it's come easy; this self-taught culinarian has spent the last twenty years working her way up in some of the city's hottest kitchens (Blue Water Grill, Modesto, Nico) and traveling the world to hone her craft. People have taken notice. At the age of 27, while serving as executive chef at Modesto, the restaurant was picked as one of America's best tables by Gourmet magazine -- not bad for someone whose first restaurant gig had her making Jell-O shots for raucous college students.

See Also: Women Chefs of St. Louis Talk About Whether Gender Matters in the Kitchen [Q&A]

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Chef Chat: Mark Sanfilippo Is Salume Beddu's Cured Meats (Philosopher) King

Categories: Chef Chat

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Mark Sanfilippo of Salume Beddu. | Cheryl Baehr

Mark Sanfilippo, the man behind Salume Beddu(3467 Hampton Avenue; 314-353-3100), didn't set out to be St. Louis' king of cured meats. The former academic spent years studying Hegelian philosophy and German, priming himself for a career as a professor when reality set in. "There are only two or three philosophy jobs in the country available any given year," Sanfilippo explains. "I realized that my chances of becoming a professor were pretty slim."

See Also: Best Deli/Sandwich Shop St. Louis 2013 - Salume Beddu

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Chef Chat: Hiro Asian Kitchen's Bernie Lee Is Proud of His Roots

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Bernie Lee, owner of Hiro Asian Kitchen. | Jennifer Silverberg

Hiro Asian Kitchen (1405 Washington Avenue; 314-241-4476) owner Bernie Lee had been dreaming of opening a restaurant on Washington Avenue for years. The cosmopolitan feel of the street, the bustling energy and the neighborhood vibe all made the spot on the corner of Fourteenth Street and Washington Avenue seem like the perfect fit for his vision of a southeast-Asian eatery.

Still, Lee -- a Malaysian ex-patriate -- wondered if he would have to Americanize his food to make Hiro successful. After struggling with what to do with his concept, he sought advice from his biggest culinary influence: his mom.

See Also: Hometown Hiro: Hiro brings Eastern Asian comfort food to St. Louis

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Chef Chat: Ed Heath on Moving from the Mountains to the Prairie

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Cleveland-Heath's Eric "Ed" Heath. | Jennifer Silverberg

Ed Heath had a plan: cook in restaurants to support himself while in school, then start his career in natural-resource management. The path was clear for the Utah native, until he graduated, got a job working for the government, and realized something was missing. He quit, bounced around from restaurant to restaurant, and felt lost. Then he met Jenny Cleveland.

See Also: Chef Chat: Jennifer Cleveland's Guilty Pleasures and Not-So-Secret Crush

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Chef Chat: Julie Weldele Is Scape American Bistro's Sweet and Sour Pastry Chef

Categories: Chef Chat

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Julie Weldele of Scape American Bistro and Crepes Etc. | Brittany Zehr

Jumping from interior design to the world of pastry wasn't that big of a leap for Julie Weldele. "I've always been artsy," she explains. "Pastry was just a different medium."

It was this creative spirit and penchant for aesthetics that led Weldele to a casual cake-decorating class. She was instantly hooked on the craft and honed her talent for sweets while working with acclaimed mentors in some of the city's top kitchens: Christy Augustin, Simone Faure and Nathaniel Reid. When the opportunity came up to head the pastry program for both Scape American Bistro (48 Maryland Plaza; 314-361-7227) and Crepes Etc. (52 Maryland Plaza; 314-367-2200) in the Central West End, she jumped at the chance. "It allows me to have the best of both worlds. I get to do plated desserts at Scape, which I love, but I also get the feel of running my own bakery at Crepes Etc."

See also: Chef Chat: The Vampire Faure of La Patisserie Chouquette

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Chef Chat: The Vampire Faure of La Patisserie Chouquette

Categories: Chef Chat

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Simone Faure, owner of La Patisserie Chouquette. | Mabel Suen

"I'm not saving lives. I'm making chocolate shoes."

What Simone Faure says may be true, but you wouldn't always know it. People line up at her shop, La Patisserie Chouquette (1626 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-7935), desperate for her ornate baked wares as if their lives depended on it.

See Also: La Patisserie Chouquette Crafts Couture Cake Toppers


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Brewer Chat: 4 Hands Brewing Company's Martin Toft IV

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Martin Toft at work at 4 Hands Brewing Company. | Kevin Lemp

Martin Toft IV laughs when he recalls his first foray into making beer. "It was awful. Technically, I suppose it was beer. I don't know why I kept going with it, but it eventually got better," he says.

It certainly did. As a brewer and brewery manager at 4 Hands Brewing Company (1220 South Eight Street; 314-436-1559), Toft is responsible for some of St. Louis' finest craft beers.

See Also: Bottled Wisdom: An Oral History of St. Louis' Craft-Beer Movement

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