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The Learning Never Stops
By Ligaya Figueras | Photos by Carmen Troesser
Posted On: 05/01/2011   


Kathy Schmidt has worked in the biz for three decades, including operating two restaurants of her own in her native Indiana. Chef Schmidt is now helming the newly opened Vino Nadoz in Richmond Heights, where the wine bar’s unconventional kitchen and sleek, contemporary vibe offer the culinary veteran an exciting opportunity to call upon her years of experience while learning a few new tricks.

How did your culinary journey begin? I was working the front of the house at a private club. I used to go back to the kitchen and help do pastry. I was 22 and squirrely as can be. Moving to the back of the house totally suited my personality. I love the fast-paced environment and the artistic, creative process.

You were the executive chef when Jimmy’s on the Park opened. How was that experience? Jimmy Kristo gave me total creative freedom in the kitchen. I was there for five years and had a great time. Chris Marshall was my opening sous chef; he now owns Llywelyn’s. Kyle Patterson, the executive chef at Lucas Park Grille, is one of my other success stories. He was one of my sous chefs that I trained. Derek Craig, who is now Jimmy’s executive chef, is another of my success stories. He’s an incredibly creative young man. To come back and see what they’ve accomplished since we worked together all those years ago is really cool.

Vino Nadoz will be the fourth restaurant that you have helped open from the ground up. What things did you keep in mind when planning the menu for a wine bar? It’s still a lot like a restaurant. You go through the same process. It’s not huge entrées, it’s all small plates. You can be a lot more creative with small plates because of how whimsical they can get. It’s also more fun when you match a menu with wines. How the wine was going to go with these dishes was always in the back of our mind.
You also had to keep in mind that the kitchen at Vino Nadoz does not have a grill or conventional oven. What was your solution? Sous vide cooking. And we have a killer TurboChef oven that cooks things in two to three minutes. It is challenging not to have a grill and flattop and conventional oven. It’s like learning a whole new dance all over again. I took classes in sous vide, and I called places in town to check out their ovens. It’s been a lot of research. And you draw from years of experience in conventional cooking and say, “Let’s pretend that the grill is broken down. Oh, and the flattop is broken.” How are you going to still get beautiful food?

It doesn’t scare you to admit a lack of knowledge to others in the culinary community? You never stop learning. There is nothing wrong with sharing your knowledge. That’s why I called people that I knew that had these ovens, sat down and picked their brains. We’re all chefs, we’re supposed to help each other.

So what dishes are you making with this new-to-you equipment and techniques? On the sous vide, we’re going to do a vanilla-scented sous vide shrimp over spring couscous. With the oven, we can cook a pizza in three minutes. A Reuben dip takes two minutes. I sous vide tenderloin then sear it in the TurboChef. … When you put the two elements together, they are a wonderful combination.

Any other dishes you are especially excited about? The Steak and Egg Caesar is going to be fun because we sous vide the egg. Polenta “cupcakes”: polenta with smoked Gouda cheese in it. I put it in a petite cupcake mold, put the rest of the polenta in a pastry bag and swirl it on top so it looks like a cupcake. It has a wild mushroom ragout with a lot of fresh herbs – a fun little wine bar dish.

Vino Nadoz Wine Bar
16 The Boulevard
St. Louis, 314.726.0400


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