Chef Chat: Jessie Gilroy is the Big Kahuna at Cucina Pazzo

Categories: Chef Chat

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Jessie Gilroy of Cucina Pazzo. | Compliments of OGHG

Cucina Pazzo's (392 North Euclid Avenue; 314-696-8400) chef de cuisine Jessie Gilroy grew up tinkering around her parents' kitchen and thumbing through her mom's stashed-away cookbooks. It should have come as no surprise to them that she wanted to go to culinary school after she graduated high school. "My parents didn't want me to go," Gilroy recalls. "They were the type of people who thought that you needed to get a four-year degree. So I said, 'OK,' and moved to Hawaii to become a marine biologist."

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

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Stephan Schubert of River City Casino. | Courtesy Pinnacle Entertainment

All Stephan Schubert wanted to do was be an airplane mechanic. "In Germany, at the age of fifteen, you have to make a decision on your career track," the acclaimed River City Casino (777 River City Casino Boulevard; 314-388-7777) executive pastry chef explains. "At that age, you're not exactly free thinking. I told my parents I wanted to work on airplanes, and they told me no. I had to go into pastry."

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Wine Chat: Angela Ortmann Is St. Louis' Wine Girl

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St. Louis Wine Girl Angela Ortmann. | Jacqui Segura

"I came up with STL Wine Girl at 2 a.m. after two bottles of wine," laughs Angela Ortmann as she recalls the genesis of her business. "I made it work because it has to. If I had a desk job, I'd be fired in a week."

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Chef Chat: Stephanie Fischer Makes Beautiful Music at Comet Coffee

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Stephanie Fischer preparing her signature pastries at Comet Coffee. | Chrissy Wilmes

Stephanie Fischer seriously considered pursuing a music career instead of a culinary one. "I knew I didn't want an office job," the Comet Coffee (5708 Oakland Avenue; 314-645-7158) co-owner and pastry chef explains. "I played piano and percussion -- the xylophone. I don't know why I chose pastry instead. I just did."

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Chef Chat: Kelly Spencer Is the Social Affair at the Station's Southern Belle

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Kelly Spencer of the Social Affair. | Nicole Galli Mohler Photography

The old cast-iron skillet that hangs inside the kitchen at the Social Affair at the Station (2232 Thurman Avenue; 314-735-5527) reminds Kelly Spencer of her roots. "It was my grandmother's," Spencer explains. "I grew up in Birmingham and had two very Southern grandmas who loved to cook. I was always in the kitchen with them -- fried chicken, apple turnovers -- it's all we did."

See Also: The Social Affair at the Station's New Modern American Market


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Chef Chat: Joy Christensen Makes Sundaes and Merriment at the Fountain on Locust

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The Fountain on Locust's Joy Christensen. | Mabel Suen

Looking back on it, Joy Christensen admits she didn't know what she was getting into when she opened the Fountain on Locust (3037 Locust Street; 314-535-7800). She thinks that's a good thing. "I think that is how a lot of stuff gets done," she muses. "If people knew how hard some things would be, they wouldn't even try to do them."

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Chef Chat: Joe Everett Is Scape American Bistro's Fish Out of Water

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Executive chef Joe Everett of Scape American Bistro. | Courtesy Scape American Bistro

Joe Everett's grandma was skeptical at first about his enthusiasm for being in the kitchen. As a little boy, Scape American Bistro's (48 Maryland Plaza; 314-361-7227) executive chef would pester her while she was hard at work whipping up her Italian specialties -- sampling everything and always in the way. Eventually, she stopped chasing him out and began teaching him, instilling a love for food that he just couldn't shake.

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

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Chef Chat: Barbecue Master Mike Emerson on Becoming Pappy

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Mike Emerson of Pappy's Smokehouse | Robin Wheeler

Long before the legendary barbecue, the throngs of adoring fans lined out the door and that famous beard, Mike Emerson was a little kid who loved the outdoors. "My family was always hunting and fishing -- I've been doing those things since I could walk," the Pappy's Smokehouse (3106 Olive Street; 314-535-4340) pit master recalls. "We were always doing some sort of outdoor cooking. It's what I grew up with."

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Chef Chat: Heather Stone on Living Farm-to-Table

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Chef Heather Stone of Taste. | Kate Woolverton

For Heather Stone, farm-to-table is more than just a buzz phrase or food trend: It was a way of life. The soon-to-be executive chef of Taste (4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-1200) (she will take over for Matt Daughaday when he leaves to open his own place) grew up on a dairy farm in rural Iowa, tending to calves and drinking milk fresher than us urbanites can imagine. It's an experience that shaped who she was to become as a chef, though her biggest influence was her grandmother's vegetable garden. Tasting produce fresh from the garden, watching it change with the seasons and tending it with her own hands was revelatory: This is how food should be.

See Also: Chef Chat: Such and Such Farm's Autumn Sij Is a City Girl Gone Country

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Chef Chat: Cinnomin Brothers on Better Eating Through Chemistry

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Cinnomin Brothers can do it. | With compliments of Cinnomin Brothers

Cinnomin Brothers laughs about her departure from politics. "I just got tired of all the late nights, early mornings and drinking." It's an irony that isn't lost on the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel (800 Washington Avenue; 314-621-9600) pastry cook -- the service industry is known for its "play-hard" ways, but Brothers insists that the political scene was far worse.

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