Chef Chat: Lassaad Jeliti Is Spare No Rib's Resident Mathematician

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Lassaad Jeliti of Spare No Rib | Jennifer Silverberg

Barbecue and tacos together under one roof may not seem to add up, but mathematician-turned-restaurateur Lassaad Jeliti found the common denominator. "It's all street food," he said back in March of his inspiration for Spare No Rib (2200 Gravois Avenue; 314-202-8244). Obviously, he was on to something -- Zagat recently named Spare No Rib one of the 15 Hottest Barbecue Joints in America.

See Also: Critic's Notebook: Inside Lassaad Jeliti's Beautiful Mind

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Chef Chat: Lauren "Lulu" Loomis Is Bursting with Pure Joy

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Lauren "Lulu" Loomis and her husband, Robert Tucker | Mabel Suen

Though Lauren "Lulu" Loomis wishes she had the ability to teleport herself around the world, she's already logged quite a few miles. In fact, it was while she was in New Zealand, working on an organic farm with her husband Robert Tucker, that the idea for Lulu's Local Eatery (3201 South Grand Boulevard) was born.

Loomis didn't originally plan on opening Lulu's as a food truck, but when she and Tucker returned from the adventure, they witnessed St. Louis' growing mobile culinary scene and knew it was the right fit. Now, with a new storefront on Grand, Loomis' plans have come full circle.

See Also: Lulu's Local Eatery sets down roots and flourishes

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Chef Chat: Athlete Eats' Bob Brazell On Spicy Last Meals and His Red Hot Riplet Obsession

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Athlete Eats' executive chef Bob Brazell | Caroline Yoo

Athlete Eats' (2837 Cherokee Street; 314-932-5566) humble lunch counter may seem like a world away from the gourmet kitchens of Monarch and Prime 1000, but executive chef Bob Brazell is quite at home in the place. After working in some of the city's high-end hotspots, Brazell was recruited by Athlete Eats owners Simon and Angelica Lusky when their prepared-meals business got too big for them to handle. The Luskys had just rented a storefront on Cherokee Street for its commercial kitchen, but the space's front area was tailor-made for a fast-casual style cafe -- and they wanted Brazell to run it.

See Also: Athlete Eats: The Cardinals' nutritionist brings health food to Cherokee Street

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Chef Chat: Colleen Thompson Shares Her Buzzed and Dewy Morning Routine

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Colleen Thompson of Colleen's Cookies | Cheryl Baehr

Colleen Thompson says that if she could have one superpower, it would be to translate difficult situations into amusing entertainment. It's fitting, then, that as chef and owner at Colleen's Cookies (7737 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-727-8427), she spends her day spreading joy to all who taste her delectable baked goodies.

See Also: First Look: Inside Caife Caife From Colleen's Cookies

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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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