Chef Chat: Andy Fair Sneaks a Tuscan Feast into Urban Chestnut's German Bierhall

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Urban Chestnut's chef Andy Fair | Jennifer Silverberg

Urban Chestnut's (4465 Manchester Avenue; 314-222-0143) chef Andy Fair grew up going to the old German restaurants around town, and it is his job to bring those flavors to the new Grove Brewery & Bierhall. It sounds like an easy task for someone who is proud of his German heritage, but Fair's passion for food was ignited significantly south of Deutschland. While working at a vineyard and olive farm in Tuscany, Fair was shown a way of eating that blew his mind -- beef hearts grilled over an open fire, raw sausage scooped up with charred bread. The experience influenced the way he approaches food. If you look close enough, Fair jokes, you can see him sneak these Italian tidbits here and there onto the traditional German menu. Just don't expect to see Chianti flowing from the beer taps anytime soon.

Fair took a break from his German-Italian culinary fusion to share his thoughts on the St. Louis dining scene and why you'll probably have to keep reintroducing yourself when you meet him.

See Also: Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery and Bierhall delivers food as flavorful as its beers


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Chef Chat: Hamishe Bahrami is Cafe Natasha's Persian Cowgirl

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Hamishe Bahrami and her daughter, Natasha. | Jennifer Silverberg

For 30 years, Hamishe Bahrami has been serving St. Louis her homemade Persian cuisine at Café Natasha (3200 South Grand Boulevard; 314-771-3411) -- a run that's virtually unheard of in the restaurant industry. When Bahrami and her husband Behshid started the restaurant (originally as a lunch counter named the Little Kitchen), Ronald Reagan was president, Michael Jackson was debuting the moonwalk and the last episode of M*A*S*H was airing on our not-nearly-HD television sets.

See Also: Café Natasha's New Gin Room Features 50 Gins and 9 Housemade Tonics

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Chef Chat: Scott Davis, Chef de Cuisine at Three Flags Tavern, Makes the Leap from BK to STL

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Scott Davis of Three Flags Tavern | Caroline Yoo

Scott Davis, chef de cuisine at Three Flags Tavern (4940 Southwest Avenue; 314-669-9222), may have come in after the menu was already written, but that doesn't keep him from putting his personal stamp on the place. "Chef [John O'Brien] and I have a really collaborative relationship," Davis says. "He is open to letting me take the menu in the direction I want to go."

See Also: High-Flying Three Flags Tavern: Is this the best restaurant opening of 2014?

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Chef Chat: Chase Overacker on Cooking in the Marines, His Food Crush and Fox Park

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The Purple Martin's executive chef Chase Overacker. | Caroline Yoo

It was a long road from the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee to the Purple Martin (2800 Shenandoah Avenue; 314-898-0011) in Fox Park, but it made Chase Overacker the chef he is today. "I grew up around classic Southern comfort food," he explains. "Gumbo, shrimp and grits, anything smoked -- pork and duck -- I always knew I wanted to cook."

Overacker's culinary calling took a circuitous path through the U.S. Marine Corps. "I joined the Marine Corps at seventeen," Overacker recalls. "I went in wanting to be a chef, but they cut the job as soon as I finished training." Still, he jumped at the opportunity to hone his craft while in the service. "I was just one of eight Marines ever selected to compete in the Armed Services' version of the World Culinary Olympics. I was so young," Overacker laughs. "I was just a kid who had no clue what I was doing. I thought I knew it all until I got there and quickly realized I was out of my leagues." Overacker says the experience, as daunting as it was, opened his eyes to a world of cooking that he didn't realize existed.

See Also: The Purple Martin holds great promise in Fox Park

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Chef Chat: Sous Chef Josh Poletti is the Libertine's Unsung Hero

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Executive Sous Chef Josh Poletti of the Libertine | Nancy Stiles

Back in the Libertine's (7927 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-2999) kitchen, a chef named Josh toils day in and out, feeding the bread starter, making housemade butter and cooking up a mean porchetta. No, it's not Josh Galliano. The Libertine's other Josh, executive sous chef Josh Poletti, serves as second-in-command at the acclaimed restaurant, and some of the other chefs in town say he's one to watch.

Poletti worked his way up at some of the city's best kitchens (Harvest, Monarch, Niche) before landing the gig as Galliano's right hand man. And while his name is less famous than his boss', people are starting to take notice.

Tonight, Poletti will team up with some of the city's other sous chef for the "Unsung Heroes Dinner" at Cielo. Dinner starts at 6 p.m., and tickets cost $65 per person. Ahead of his performance tonight, Poletti agreed to sit down and answer some questions for this week's Chef Chat.

See Also: Family Meal at the Libertine: What Chef Josh Galliano and His Staff Eat Before Service

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Chef Chat: Christopher Lee on Mad Tomato and What's Forbidden in His Kitchen

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Chef Christopher Lee | Cheryl Baehr

Chef Christopher Lee always knew it was a matter of time before he and Mad Tomato (8000 Carondelet Avenue, Clayton; 314-932-5733) chef and owner Vito Racanelli would go into business together.

"I've known Vito for ages," Lee says. "He was trying to do everything himself at Mad Tomato. I was looking to leave my last job, and he asked me to join him." Lee drove a hard bargain. "I told him that I'd only do it as a partnership -- not as an employee." Racanelli accepted Lee's business proposal, and the longtime friends now find themselves making beautiful food together at the Clayton eatery.

See Also: The 5 Best Italian Restaurants (Not Cheap) in St. Louis


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Chef Chat: Colleen Clawson On Being a "Wild Dog" and Her Guiltiest Food Pleasure

Categories: Chef Chat

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Courtesy Colleen Clawson

Colleen Clawson certainly has some stories to share. As a veteran of some of the city's best-known restaurants -- Sidney Street Café, Remy's Kitchen and Wine Bar, Big Sky Café -- Clawson has been part of the inner sanctum of St. Louis' hottest kitchens. Just don't ask her to kiss and tell.

Clawson took a break from the development of her first venture, Standard Fare, to chat about the current state of the St. Louis dining scene -- one that she will be shaking up as soon as the global street food eatery (made from repurposed shipping containers) opens.

See Also: The Chefs of Iron Fork 2014: Colleen Clawson, Standard Fare


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Chef Chat: Does Planter's House's Bradley Hoffmann Sing in the Shower?

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Chef Bradley Hoffmann of Planter's House. | Cheryl Baehr

It's rare for a chef to be a restaurant's unsung hero, but that's the case for Bradley Hoffmann. The Planter's House (1000 Mississippi Avenue; 314-696-6203) executive chef is in the unenviable -- or enviable depending on one's perspective -- position of preparing dishes that match the genius of Ted and Jamie Kilgore's acclaimed cocktails. Fortunately for diners, Hoffmann has proven he's up to the challenge.

Hoffmann took a break from prepping his famous duck burgers to share his thoughts on the state of the St. Louis dining scene and reveal his rituals and secret singing skills (Does this mean he sings in the shower?).

See Also: Planter's House is built on a foundation of mixology magic


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Chef Chat: Juniper's John Perkins Explains the Dangerous "Steak Double Down"

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John Perkins, right, shares a beer with fellow chef Brian Coltrain. | Micah Usher

It's been quite a year for pop-up chef-turned restaurateur John Perkins. First came the opening of his permanent restaurant, Juniper (360 North Boyle Avenue; 314-329-7696) -- already considered one of the city's best. Then came his Iron Fork win, where he somehow managed to turn beef liver into a bright and delicate panzanella salad. And Entre, his original underground dinner concept? It's now a thriving catering business. As if these feats weren't enough, Perkins somehow managed to indulge his pop-up roots as the chef for the inaugural Salon1500, an underground dinner for the city's entrepreneurial set. It's enough to make one's head spin.

Perkins took a break from his overachieving to share his thoughts on the state of the St. Louis restaurant scene, reveal who he has his eye on, and educate us on a positively obscene dish called a "Steak Double Down." Do not attempt it without doctor supervision.

See Also: Southern Bread: John Perkins' new restaurant, Juniper, does Dixie cuisine proud


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Chef Chat: Winslow's Home's Carrie Whitcraft is a Secret Metalhead Chef

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Carrie Whitcraft of Winslow's Home | Cheryl Baehr

"Technically, I'm now the special events coordinator," says Carrie Whitcraft from the Winslow's Home (7213 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-7559) kitchen, freshly made pasta dough in hand. "As you can see, I get pulled back in quite a bit."

Whitcraft's new role at Winslow's Home may transition her away from a daily spot on the line, but it's impossible to keep her out of the kitchen. And it would be a shame to do so. The former sous chef's culinary prowess has earned her spots in some of the city's top kitchens: Westwood Country Club, (the now-shuttered) Mazara and Sidney Street Café. She has locked down a reputation as a rising star in the St. Louis food scene.

Whitcraft took time away from overseeing the Cellar, Winslow's Home's new special events space, to answer some of Gut Check's questions.

See Also: Winslow's Home Tries Fine Dining With the Cellar Event Space


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