Chef Chat: Bay Tran Plants Her Culinary Roots at Tree House

Categories: Chef Chat

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Bay Tran of Tree House. | Mabel Suen

Tree House (3177 South Grand Boulevard; 314-696-2100) owner and executive chef Bay Tran grew up with the feeling that she had food in her blood. Granted, her mom and dad were restaurateurs (they own the Mekong restaurant and the Upstairs Lounge), but she felt it went deeper than that. It wasn't until adulthood that her parents revealed the family's impressive culinary heritage that dates back two generations to colonial Vietnam.

See Also: Tree House's Ethical Answer for Pâté de Foie Gras

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Chef Chat: Russell's on Macklind's Russell Ping Plays Well with Sweet and Savory

Categories: Chef Chat

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Russell Ping of Russell's on Macklind and Russell's Bakery & Cafe. | Mabel Suen

Russell Ping opened his first venture, Russell's Cafe & Bakery (958 Brookwood Center Plaza, Fenton; 636-343-8900), at the ripe old age of 22. It's a little young to be branching out on one's own -- then again, Ping got his first KitchenAid mixer when he was 11.

See Also: Russell's on Macklind's Coconut Cake, A Divine Classic Dessert By the Slice


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Chef Chat: Elaia's Josh Charles Is Making His Uncle Proud

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Josh Charles of Elaia. | Mabel Suen

If his uncle would have had his way, Josh Charles would have stayed out of the kitchen. "My uncle had a restaurant in Farmington, where I grew up," the Elaia (1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088) chef de cuisine recalls. "I was always there hanging out and thought it was so cool how he was the center of the community. The restaurant was where everyone in town met. He never let me work for him, though. He was trying to shield me from that life."

See Also: Nashan, Heath, Poremba and More Named James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalists

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Chef Chat: Maddie Earnest Is Local Harvest's Rooted Grocer

Categories: Chef Chat

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Maddie Earnest of Local Harvest Grocery. | Mabel Suen

Maddie Earnest had planned to spend her life working in social services -- she just didn't know that was going to be as a neighborhood grocer. "I have a MSW in social work," the Local Harvest Grocery <em>(3108 Morgan Ford Road; 314-865-5260) co-owner explains. "I was a social worker, but I always believed in local farming, had a CSA membership, grew up gardening. After helping my business partner set up the Tower Grove Farmers' Market, we decided to open Local Harvest. Sometimes we joke, "What were we thinking?"

See Also: 10 Local Urban Farms We Love

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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."

See Also: The 10 Best Restaurants for Fresh Pasta in St. Louis

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

Categories: Chef Chat

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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."

See Also: Chef Chat: River City Casino's John Johnson Knows How to Rock a Bacon Hat


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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."

See Also: The 10 Best Wine Bars in St. Louis

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Chef Chat: Stephanie Fischer Makes Beautiful Music at Comet Coffee

Categories: Chef Chat

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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."

See Also: Chef Chat: Christy Augustin is Pint Size Bakery's "Punk Rock Grandma"

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

Categories: Chef Chat

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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

Categories: Chef Chat

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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."

See Also: The Fountain on Locust's "Banana Bourbon": A Sundae with a Shot of Booze

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