|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.
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