Chef Brian Hardesty's Guiltiest Pleasure and Most Hated Ingredient

Categories: Chef's Choice

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Chef Brian Hardesty | Courtesy Lucky You Productions

When you've worked in some of St. Louis' most venerable kitchens -- Monarch, Harvest, Terrene -- such as chef Brian Hardesty has, you could be excused for sticking with what you know. After all, if you're privy to a winning formula, why not take the easy route and open a place that replicates past successes?

But Hardesty is not one to phone it in. Gut Check e-mailed the brains behind Element (1419 Carroll Street; 314-241-1674) -- named one of our favorite restaurants openings of 2013 -- to hear his thoughts on the St. Louis food scene and a few other tidbits. His answers were short -- but to the point.

See Also-Element Restaurant Serves Style Atop Lafayette Square

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Chef's Chat: Quincy Street Bistro's Rick Lewis Wants to Be Wolverine

Categories: Chef's Choice

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       Chef Rick Lewis. | Cheryl Baehr


Quincy Street Bistro
(6931 Gravois Avenue; 314-353-1588) may seem like a long way from the high-end halls of the now-shuttered An American Place, but chef Rick Lewis doesn't think so. "We're serving just as good of product here as at any fine dining restaurant," Lewis tells us. "We want to give people an option for quality, real food in a casual, comfortable setting."

See Also: Quincy Street Bistro's BLT: One of 100 St. Louis You Must Eat Right Now

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Chef Josh Galliano on His Rituals, Fried Chicken and Hating Jam Bands

Categories: Chef's Choice

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Chef Josh Galliano | Robin Wheeler

At this point, saying that Josh Galliano is a rock star in the St. Louis (if not national) culinary scene is stating the obvious. If his status was not already solidified by his tenure at An American Place and Monarch, or his Best New Chef award from Food and Wine Magazine, then the overwhelming success of Galliano's new restaurant, the Libertine (7927 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-2999) seals the deal.

Now in its fifth month, this "neighborhood eatery" is basking in a well-deserved reputation as one of the area's most notable dining establishments. Galliano presents a menu that is both refined and playful with winks to his Louisiana heritage. On any given night, diners at the Libertine can see him personally delivering food to the tables and checking on guests, taking the time to genuinely engage diners.

Fresh on the heels of his 2013 RFT Readers' Choice win for Best Chef, we sat down with Galliano to chat about the state of the St. Louis food scene and found out along the way why he likens himself to a sunchoke.

See Also
-The Libertine: Clayton's "neighborhood eatery" is more like St. Louis' best new restaurant


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Chef Mathew Unger on Following Your Dreams and the Virtues of Mustard

Categories: Chef's Choice

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Jennifer Silverberg
Chef Mathew Unger

Executive chef and proprietor of Mathew's Kitchen (5625 Hampton Avenue; 314-351-1700) Mathew Unger is not afraid to take a leap of faith. While the jump from heading the kitchen at the Missouri Athletic Club to opening his own restaurant may seem like a bold move, it is nothing compared to his career change from stockbroker to chef and certified wine specialist.

See Also:-Inside Mathew's Kitchen: Slideshow

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Cassy Vires, RFT's Best Chef Winner, on Foam, Fried Chicken and Her Killer Pastry Chef

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Jennifer Silverberg
Best Chef 2013, Cassy Vires

By now, we all know the obvious about chef Cassy Vires. She has made lightning strike twice with her two restaurants, Maplewood's Home Wine Kitchen (7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-802-7676) and Table (1821 Cherokee Street; 314-449-1888) in Benton Park. She is a master of refined rustic cuisine, and her writing prowess has earned her national acclaim.

In honor of her award for Riverfront Times' Best Chef 2013, we wanted her to pick her brain about local food trends and why the St. Louis culinary scene is something special.

See Also
-Best Local Chef 2013: Cassy Vires

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Robust's Pan-Seared Scallops with Ham in Tomato-Truffle Sauce: A Recipe from Joseph Hemp V

This is part three of Gut Check's Chef's Choice profile of Joseph Hemp V of Robust. Read part one, a profile of Hemp, here. Read part two, a Q & A with Hemp, here.

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The scallops with ham atop creamy polenta at Robust | Corey Woodruff
Joseph Hemp V, the chef of the popular wine bar and restaurant Robust (227 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-0033) and its new downtown outpost (635 Washington Avenue; 314-287-6300), has come a long way from helping his mother cook Sunday breakfast for the family. Yet all his years of cooking and watching others cook has paid off with an attention to detail evident on the plate and in the instructions he provides for this recipe.

When I reviewed the new downtown location of Robust earlier this year, one of my favorite dishes was the seared scallops with ham in a tomato-truffle sauce. Here Hemp tells you how it's done.

See Also:
- Ian Froeb's RFT Review of Robust (2013)
- Adrenaline Junkie Joseph Hemp V Finds a Home in the Kitchen
- Being Happy While You Cook and Learning to Love Bourbon: A Q&A with Joseph Hemp V of Robust


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Being Happy While You Cook and Learning to Love Bourbon: A Q&A with Joseph Hemp V of Robust

Categories: Chef's Choice

This is part two. of Gut Check's Chef's Choice profile of Joseph Hemp V of Robust. Read part one, a profile of Hemp, here. Part three, a recipe from Hemp, will be available Monday.

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Joseph Hemp V, chef of Robust | Ian Froeb
As a kid, Joseph Hemp V would stand on a step stool next to the stove to help make Sunday breakfast, his family's breakfast. In the summer, he'd tend his grandmother's vegetable garden -- and dutifully eat the vegetables that she'd just plucked straight from the ground.

Was Hemp destined to become a chef? Maybe, though the course he took to his current position at the popular wine bar and restaurant Robust (227 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-0033) and its new downtown outpost (635 Washington Avenue; 314-287-6300), was a long one. It took him to hotels and country clubs and some of the best restaurants in St. Louis; it included two stints in culinary school -- the second necessary after the first ended with his being kicked out.

Hemp and I met at the downtown Robust this week to discuss his journey as a chef (read more about that path here), why you should smile while you cook and why you should give new restaurants a chance to get it together before you lambaste them online.

See Also:
- Adrenaline Junkie Joseph Hemp V Finds a Home in the Kitchen
- Ian Froeb's RFT Review of Robust (2013)

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Adrenaline Junkie Joseph Hemp V Finds a Home in the Kitchen

Categories: Chef's Choice

This is part one of Gut Check's Chef's Choice profile of Joseph Hemp V of Robust. Part two, a Q & A with Hemp, and part three, a recipe from Hemp, will be available on Friday.

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Joseph Hemp V, chef of Robust | Ian Froeb
Growing up, Joseph Hemp V always looked forward to Sunday breakfast. "We were all together as a family," the chef of Robust (227 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-0033) and its new downtown outpost (635 Washington Avenue; 314-287-6300) explains. "Dad always worked nights. We had school and everything else. But Sunday breakfast was always big."

But Hemp was no passive participant in the feast.

"We'd have a little tiny footstool we'd put next to the stove so I could sit there and watch. And then eventually it came to a point where my mom got six recipes on a looseleaf paper, and I kept watching and practicing with her until one Sunday she said, 'All right, I want you to make breakfast.'

"I was like maybe seven by then. It was fun. Everybody was all excited about the terrible eggs I made or the overcooked this, that and the other."

See Also:
- Ian Froeb's RFT Review of Robust (2013)
- Corey Woodruff's RFT Slideshow of Robust (2013)

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Mai Lee's Peanut Sauce: A Recipe from Qui Tran

This is part three of Gut Check's Chef's Choice profile of Qui Tran of Mai Lee. Read part one, a profile of Tran, here. Read part two, a Q & A with Tran, here.

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The interior of Mai Lee | Jennifer Silverberg
Qui Tran of Mai Lee (8396 Music Memorial Drive, Brentwood; 314-645-2835), doesn't place himself among the St. Louis chefs he so admires.

"I respect those guys and love them to death," he told me when we sat down earlier this week. "I can't do what they do. I'm a self-taught cook. I learned from my mother. They create stuff. I just imitate stuff."

Anyone who has eaten at Mai Lee -- and that's more than a few of you, if the daily crowds at St. Louis' first Vietnamese restaurant are any indication -- would disagree. Tran's food is a tribute to his mother, who founded the restaurant in University City in late 1984, but if you know nothing of Mai Lee's remarkable history, you will still find it delicious.

Here Tran shares the recipe for one of Mai Lee's essential condiments, peanut sauce.

See Also:
- Qui Tran Lives the American Dream and Continues His Mother's Legacy at Mai Lee
- Loving Las Vegas and MSG: A Q & A with Qui Tran of Mai Lee

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Loving Las Vegas and MSG: A Q & A with Qui Tran of Mai Lee

Categories: Chef's Choice

This is part two of Gut Check's Chef's Choice profile of Qui Tran of Mai Lee. Read part one, a profile of Tran, here. Part three, a recipe from Tran, will be available on Friday.

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Qui Tran, chef of Mai Lee | Ian Froeb
Mai Lee (8396 Music Memorial Drive, Brentwood; 314-645-2835) isn't simply a job for chef Qui Tran. It's his legacy.

His mother, Lee, founded the restaurant in 1985, eight years after the family had fled near-certain death in Vietnam. He spent his childhood washing dishes and papering houses and cars with copies of the menu. Though he initially resisted making a career in the restaurant industry, he realized that it was what he "was bred to do."

Under his stewardship, Mai Lee is more popular than ever. Its Brentwood location is much larger than the original University City spot, but is still packed at lunch and dinner.

And, yes, Mom still checks in to see how her son and his staff are doing.

"She's an old immigrant woman," Tran says and laughs. "You're not getting her out of here ever. As much as you try to."

See Also:
- Qui Tran Lives the American Dream and Continues His Mother's Legacy at Mai Lee


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