Distiller Chat: St. Louis Distillery's Bill Schroer Is Dr. Vodka

Categories: Chef Chat

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St. Louis Distillery partners Steve Herberholt, Bill Schroer and Greg Deters. | Complements of St. Louis Distillery

"I'll be honest -- I was escaping a Pampered Chef party," Dr. Bill Schroer laughs when asked about the origins of St. Louis Distillery. "I was with two of my neighbors at one of their houses while their wives were down at mine. We got to drinking and talking about how there are a lot of people who open breweries and wineries, but not many who open distilleries. Then it came to us: We could do that."

See Also: 10 Delicious New Summer Cocktails in St. Louis

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Chef Chat: Ben Grupe on Pop-Ups and Being an Olympian

Categories: Chef Chat

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Ben Grupe. | Photo by Mabel Suen

Ben Grupe has had a culinary career that many aspiring chefs can only dream of. The classically trained chef has worked at some of the areas best clubs, cooked at the world-renowned Greenbriar resort in West Virginia and studied under master chefs. It's an impressive resume, but for Grupe, something was missing.

See Also: Chef Chat: Stephan Schubert Is River City Casino's High-Flying Pastry Chef

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Chef Chat: Seedz Cafe's Cara Moon Schloss on Tunisia and Teen Romance

Categories: Chef Chat

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Cara Moon Schloss | Photo by Mabel Suen

Cara Moon Schloss of Seedz Café (6344 South Rosebury; 314-725-7333) traces her interest to healthy eating back to a teenage romance. "I had a boyfriend whose mom had M.S.," she recalls. "You know how people come into your life at that age -- especially boys."

See Also: First Look: Seedz Cafe Offers Organic Vegan Food and Drinks in DeMun

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How the Gin Room's Natasha Bahrami Became the Gin Girl

Categories: Chef Chat

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Natasha Bahrami. | Photo by Mabel Suen

If Natasha Bahrami seems at home behind her bar at the Gin Room, it's because she's had years of practice. The self-styled Gin Girl grew up toddling around the Persian restaurant that bears her name, working the room at her parents' Café Natasha since before she could walk. She always knew that the future of her family's restaurant rested on her shoulders, but it took her a while to embrace that fact -- if she was going to carry Café Natasha's torch forward, it would be on her terms.

"My parents have always been very supportive of me finding my own way," Bahrami explains. "But still, I knew that if they were going to move the restaurant forward, I was going to have to lead it. They told me, 'Listen, either you come back and run it, or we're not.'"

See Also: The Gin Rickey Is the Cocktail for Summer 2015

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Chef Chat: Matt Bessler on Taking Over at The Libertine

Categories: Chef Chat

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The Libertine's executive chef Matt Bessler. | Mabel Suen

"My family used to joke that I couldn't hit a nail straight," Matt Bessler laughs when asked about how he got into cooking. "So they sent me off to help out Mom in the kitchen." The Libertine's (7927 Forsyth Boulevard; 314-862-2999) new executive chef credits his tight-knit family with showing him the importance of food at an early age, making the family dinners he helped prepare a mandatory event. "You got in trouble if you weren't at the dinner table," he recalls.

See Also: Chef Josh Galliano Leaving The Libertine; Matt Bessler Named New Executive Chef (UPDATED)

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Chef Chat: Pizzino's Jim Zimmerman Builds His Pizzas on a Flour Foundation

Categories: Chef Chat

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Jim Zimmerman of Pizzino. | Mabel Suen

It's no surprise that Jim Zimmerman makes some mighty good pizza: The Pizzino (7600 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton; 314-240-5134) owner has baking in his blood. Zimmerman comes from a long line of Lithuanian bakers dating back over three centuries. His grandfather founded Cahokia Flour Company, a major player in the artisanal baking movement; Zimmerman worked there for decades.

See Also: Review: Pizzino Uses a Baker's Precision for Memorable Pies

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Marina and John Backes Bring a Little Bit of Jersey to Circle B Ranch

Categories: Chef Chat

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Marina and John Backes of Circle B Ranch. | Compliments of Marina Backes

Circle B Ranch's Marina Backes laughs when she recalls the reaction of her friends and family in New Jersey to the news that she and her husband John were moving to rural Missouri to raise hogs. "They were really unsure about the whole thing. Actually, I think they're all still quite skeptical."

See Also: My Week of Eating Locally -- and What I Learned

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Chef Chat: Tom Schmidt on Leaping into the Fire at Salt + Smoke

Categories: Chef Chat

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Tom Schmidt, owner of Salt + Smoke. | Jennifer Silverberg

Tom Schmidt admits that opening Salt + Smoke (6525 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-0200) was an enormous leap of faith. "My wife was pregnant with our first child, and there were about five different articles published in local papers about how there are too many barbecue spots opening up and that we were all going to fail miserably," the Salt + Smoke owner recalls. "Loyal customers of Nico were coming in every day to tell me I was making a huge mistake. I stood to lose my business, my house, my passion and reputation, and the security of my family. It was absolute insanity."

See Also: Salt + Smoke distinguishes itself in the crowd of new St. Louis barbecue

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Brandon Stern on The Civil Life and St. Louis' DIY Spirit

Categories: Chef Chat

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Brandon Stern of The Civil Life Brewing Company. | Mabel Suen

The Civil Life Brewing Company's (3714 Holt Avenue) Brandon Stern wasn't sure about his career path when he first got into the beer industry. In fact, he thought he was going to be a plumber -- until a part-time job delivering pizzas for a Chicago brewpub put him on an entirely different course.

"I came to this through a lot of twists and tumbles," Stern laughs. "I started out working at a brewery and pizzeria called Piece in Chicago. I had some ideas about beer before then, but not a lot. That's where my big exposure happened."

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Chef Chat: Mike Randolph Goes from Public Service to Público

Categories: Chef Chat

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Restaurateur Mike Randolph. | Greg Rannells

Mike Randolph thought he would go into public service -- but he didn't think it would take the shape that it did.

"I went to school for political science," the chef and owner of Público (6679 Delmar Boulevard; 314-833-5780) explains. "I did an internship, but I couldn't get the job I wanted. I had all of this energy I wanted to use on the ground running campaigns, but I realized that wasn't going to happen."

See Also: A Look Inside Público, Mike Randolph's Newest Concept Featuring Latin-Inspired Cuisine

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