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Feb 20, 2018
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Ones to Watch 2018: Bryan Russo

Monday, January 1st, 2018



Chef de Cuisine, Público
Age: 27
Why Watch Him: His hands are in the fire, but his head is in the books.

You could say Bryan Russo’s career started at Taco Bell. He did, after all, snag a job at the fast-food chain with his bandmates in high school, leading him to ditch music and sign up for culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu.

Or you could say it started with his Italian grandma and her ungodly good biscuits. One bite and he swore off the canned stuff forever, a revelation that took him down the flour-dusted rabbit hole of sourdough trials and fermentation experiments he’s still winding down today.

But no matter where he started, now he’s here: running a James Beard Award-nominated kitchen. “Bryan came on before Público was even built out,” explained Público chef-owner Mike Randolph. “He started as a cook and really quickly worked himself up to a sous chef. When we shook up the kitchen about six months ago, it made so much sense to make Bryan chef de cuisine. He is responsible beyond his years. He’s eager to learn.”

More like hungry for it. Russo doesn’t believe in secrets, and he doesn’t think you should either. He wants to learn any way he can: with his head in a book, from the guy on the line or trolling bread forums in his spare time. “I went into [Público] not knowing a damn thing about Latin food,” Russo said. “It was, hey, I want those burnt tortillas in my mole. I want those ash-roasted carrots in this thing. It was a lot of learning; I couldn’t have done it without the other guys in the kitchen.”

And his education continues. At Público, he’s messing around with cooking bread in the ashes of the wood-burning fire. “Shove it in there, and in a minute or two you have this ugly looking thing,” he explained. “You knock the coal right off, and it’s got this really nice, caramel-y, tasty bread.” Every item on the menu has his fingerprints on it, most the delectable result of collaboration with Randolph – or “Coach,” as Russo calls him. On the side, he’s baking sourdough for Squatter’s Café, where they slather it with fresh ricotta and serve it simply with the season’s brightest bounty.

The only thing Russo knows about his future is that it will involve open fire, something with bread. When you never stop learning, just about anything is possible.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Stacy Schultz is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine. 

Ones to Watch 2018: Hana Chung

Monday, January 1st, 2018



Line Cook, Vista Ramen
Age: 30
Why Watch Her: She’s cooking circles around all the dudes in town.

If the restaurant inside Hana Chung’s mind was a dinner party, you’d so want that invite. The table would be crowded with everyone from her Korean-born parents to her pizzaolo husband and the buddies she’s met inside the long list of local kitchens on her resume: folks from Byrd & Barrel and Juniper swapping stories with her current Vista Ramen kitchen mates.

The music would be loud and the guests would be louder; wafts from the kitchen would be salty, sweet and acidic. The food: “hardy, home-ish” Korean dishes her mom and grandma used to make her
back home. “Right now, food is kind of weird, almost segregated,” Chung said. “You have your really fancy food that only a small percentage of people in St. Louis can eat. I think there’s a market for good, local food that everyone can afford, and that’s my main goal.”

Despite her high-profile resume, Chung had one request when she began at Vista. “By choice, Hana kind of wanted to get back to just cooking. She’s a line cook here,” said Vista chef-owner Chris Bork. “That’s her position, but she’s a lot more than that. She will cook circles around a lot of the dudes that I’ve known. She’s just hardworking, and you could see instantly – Hana knows how this works.”

In an industry known for tempers that flare higher than kitchen fires, Chung has the rare gift of an easygoing attitude. “She was with us toward the end of Randolfi’s,” said Mike Randolph, chef-owner of the now-closed restaurant. “Those were some pretty hairy times. She kept us sane through really long hours and short staffs those last weeks. She would leave these little notes of encouragement around the stations for the cooks. She was a positive influence at a time when we really needed one.”

So, what’s next for Chung and her Korean street food spot dream? For now, Chung is learning more about her craft and spreading good vibes wherever she goes. “How can you not be happy when you’re in the kitchen dancing to Aretha and making food you like?” she asked. Preach.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Stacy Schultz is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine. 


In This Issue: Lox of Love

Saturday, September 14th, 2013



In the Jewish religion, holidays mean food – a whole lot of food. Growing up, we’d clamor into the car to drive to Memphis and ring in the Jewish new year with my grandma and grandpa over a spread that lasted three glorious days. (Sure, there were services, but I just remember the sweet, pull-apart challah that we dipped in a golden puddle of honey.) When Passover rolled around each spring, my Baba made a cauldron of soup that was so flawless – light-as-air matzo balls bobbing in a broth that tasted of rich chicken, sweet carrots and fragrant herbs – it actually made me wonder what all the fuss about bread was anyway. And every year when we light the candles for Hanukkah, my mom serves her legendary brisket – a tough cut reared tender thanks to a two-day Jacuzzi in a sticky-sweet tomato sauce. These are my holidays. Everything else is just a reason to come to the table.

As I inch into the finale of my 20s, I’m beginning to wonder how I can make my mark on cultural traditions that have had a decades-long head start. After all, why mess with perfection? (In case you’re wondering, that’s exactly what my mom’s brisket is.) Somewhere in between peeling russets for my Zada’s mashed potatoes and onions, and baking my mom’s citrus-scented blintz casserole, I realized that there was only one way to transition myself from hungry guest to gracious host: lox.

To read more about the traditions behind lox and how to make your own, click here.

-Photo by Greg Rannells



In This Issue: Bar Bites

Friday, September 13th, 2013



There’s a reason you visit the same bar time and again. Sure, the capable bar staff and crafty beer list are alluring, but you stay for the snacks. Great bar snacks are packed with flavor, small enough to eat with your hands and, before you know it, totally gone. At your next get-together, get the party started well before the appetizers arrive with these crave-able finger foods. Just don’t blame us if everyone asks to come over again next weekend.

Check out the recipes for Pad Thai Popcorn, Spice-roasted Chickpeas and Salt and Pepper.

-Photo by Carmen Troesser



2013 Readers’ Choice: The Ultimate Cup of Coffee

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

The 2013 Readers’ Choice results are in. You voted for your top places to eat, drink, shop and enjoy all things food in St. Louis. Winners ran the gamut from classics like Sidney Street Cafe and Pappy’s Smokehouse to new-and-notables like Pastaria and Sauce on the Side. And when you need the best cup of coffee in town, you head down to Sump Coffee in South City for a meticulously balanced brew.



When it comes to making the perfect cup of coffee, Sump Coffee’s Scott Carey has it down to a science. Here, the coffee connoisseur teaches us how to make the ultimate cup of coffee at home. Yet he’s quick to caution that his advice is more guidelines than strict rules. “Ultimately, your palate should always determine your cup.” So once you’ve mastered his brewing method, tweak the technique according to your preference.

The Tools*
Hario V60 Drip Pour Over Coffee Scale and Timer
If you’re going to brew, you have to have a scale. Look for a gram scale with an accuracy of 1/10 of a gram and with a timer that counts up – not down. This model from Japanese company Hario has a built-in timer, another essential brewing tool. $58 to $70.

Hario V60 (VDC-02W)
The hole in the bottom of this ceramic device funnels coffee in a slow, steady stream for a smooth, balanced cup. The 02 model brews 11 ounces, perfect for 2 small cups or 1 large one. $21.

Hario V60 Coffee 700-mL Server Carafe
The V60 will need something to stream into. If you want to pinch pennies somewhere, any heat-resistant vessel that fits the V60’s flat bottom will work – even a large, transparent mug will do. “It helps if you can see what’s in there, for those oops moments, so you don’t burn yourself or spill.” $18 to $20.

02 Paper filters
Your filter should match your V60, so grab the 02 size. If you can find bamboo filters, all the better. If not, paper is just fine. $9 to $15/100.

Hario V60 Coffee Drip Kettle Buono (VKB-120HSV)
“You have to have a way of controlling the rate of the pour and where you’re pouring, so you need a goose-neck kettle.” $50 to 60.

Burr grinder
Look for a Burr grinder – not a blade grinder – that produces a uniform particle size. It can be a hand version or an automatic one.

Hot, filtered water
Run your water through a filter before using it. Then bring it to a boil and let it sit until the temperature falls to 200 to 206 degrees, about 2 minutes. Never brew with boiling water.

*Tools available on amazon.com

The Technique
• For Sump’s light-roast coffees, use a ratio of 1 gram of coffee to 15 grams of water. That’s 25 grams of coffee to 350 grams of water for the V60. The grind should be somewhere between a paper filter and a metal filter setting.
• Unfold the filter in the V60 and set the V60 atop your serving vessel. Using the kettle, pour 11 ounces of hot water over the filter. This preheats the V60 and vessel and removes the paper taste from the filter. Dump the hot water from the vessel and place it on the scale. Place the V60 with the wet filter on top and zero out the scale.
• Pour the ground coffee into the wet filter. The scale should read 25 grams. Zero out the scale again.
• Start the timer. Very slowly, pour water into the coffee in a clockwise circle about the size of a quarter until the scale reads 50 grams. Within 10 to 15 seconds, the coffee will begin to bloom – swell up and dome over like a chocolate soufflé. Let it bloom for 30 to 45 seconds.
• Slowly pour the next 300 grams in the same small, clockwise circle, avoiding the edges of the filter. The scale should read 350 grams within 1 minute and 20 seconds. Pour a little faster toward the end if necessary to use all 350 grams of water within that timeframe.
• Let the coffee stream into the vessel. As soon as it starts to drip instead of stream, it’s done. This should take 2 to 2½ minutes. Remove the V60 from the vessel and let the coffee cool for 30 to 45 seconds before serving.

The Tweaks
When it comes to hand-brewing coffee, practice makes perfect. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you fine-tune your technique.
• Don’t take your eyes off the timer. It will tell you how to tweak things next time. For instance, the entire brewing process should take about 2 to 2½ minutes. If it takes more like 1½ minutes, your grind is too coarse. Closer to 3 minutes, and it’s too fine. You also want to make sure the coffee is dripping at the right speed. If your coffee tastes too bitter, it’s been over-extracted; try to reduce your brew time. If the coffee tastes too thin, try to extend your brew time. But don’t go over 2½ minutes.
• Adjust according to bean. Super-fresh coffees will take 45 seconds to fully bloom; older beans will take closer to 30 seconds. For dense, high-elevation coffees such as Ethiopians, use a coarser grind setting.

The Beans
“You have to start with good coffee to make good coffee.” Sump’s house-roasted, single-origin beans are roasted to city level at the first crack. That’s coffee speak for super light in order to preserve the bean’s origin and terroir. “You have to sacrifice body, but you get a lot more fruit and brightness out of it, so I think that compromise is worth it.” Apparently, so do you.

-Photo by Jonathan Gayman



By The Book: Yvette Van Boven’s Crab Legs with Garlic Butter

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013


All summer long, I’ve dreamed of flying to Maine for the weekend: walking along the beaches and eating just-caught seafood three times a day without ever putting on shoes. Since I’m running short on time – can you believe the summer is more than half over? – I figured I’d make the coast come to me. It was time to try a crustacean I’d never brought into my kitchen before: crab legs.

To be honest, I’ve never been entirely sure how to eat crab legs, much less cook them. But I figured if anyone could show me how in a clean, simple way, it was Yvette Van Boven. Her series of Home Made books celebrate seasonal eating with a beautiful, clean simplicity. Her new book, Home Made Summer, is no exception: chock-full of recipes from preserved lemons to Negroni popsicles and even grilled pork chops. Her dishes aren’t complicated or fancy. Her brilliance is in the flavors and ingredients she chooses. Most recipes in her books have at least one ingredient that will have you scratching your head and trotting around town to four different grocery stores. But hey, sometimes you need to break out of your comfort zone.

When I decided to make Van Boven’s crab legs, I was delighted to see that there weren’t many ingredients to track down at all – except crab legs! Fortunately, we have two fantastic seafood shops in town. You can find precooked crab legs at Bob’s Seafood in U. City or the Whole Foods in Brentwood on a regular basis. Even better, the fishmongers at both spots are more than happy to give you a few tips on eating them: “Break them at the bottom, take some kitchen shears and cut along the middle, then break ‘em open.” Got it.



Lucky for me, the recipe was as easy as it sounded. Once you’ve given each leg a nice little whack with a hammer (A mallet probably would’ve been better, but my regular ol’ hammer got the job done.), you just toss them in a sauce of butter, oil, garlic and fresh herbs. The buttery bath reheats the legs for a quick five minutes, and just like that – dinner. Grill some bread brushed with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and rub with garlic as soon as you take it off the heat. Eat this dish with salad and bread – that’s all.

There it is, a trip to the coast in the ease of a few minutes and no airport security. Now eating the legs, well, that was a different story. What a mess!



Crab Legs with Garlic Butter
Serves 4 (6 to 8 as a starter)

16 crab legs (You can buy these precooked at your local fishmonger.)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup good olive oil
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ handful fresh tarragon (This is mandatory; make a detour if necessary.)
1 lemon, quartered

• Place the crab legs on a wooden cutting board and crush them somewhat using a hammer, just enough to allow the sauce to seep in and make them easier to eat.
• Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, pour in the oil and add the garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the herbs.
• Now add the crab legs; they probably won’t fit all at once, so heat them in batches, turning them in the butter to coat. (Heat the second batch while you devour the first.) Cover the pan and heat the crab legs about 5 minutes, until they’re warmed through.
• Spoon the crab legs out of the pan and transfer them to a large plate. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Reprinted with permission from Stewart Tabori & Chang

What would you eat on a summer trip to Maine? Let us know in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Home Made Summer by Yvette Van Boven. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Sue, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of Fresh by Tyler Florence. Sue, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.



In This Issue: Southern Comforts – The Devil Wears Yellow

Monday, July 22nd, 2013


Pay attention to the starter section of the menu next time you’re at one of these eateries because this old-school potluck favorite is boasting some serious new-school flair. Click here to see more of these dressed-up little devils.

-Photo by Greg Rannells

In This Issue: Southern Comforts – Dining and Drinking Around Town

Friday, July 19th, 2013


Remember when you had to pile in the car and drive deep into Tennessee, Georgia or even Louisiana to get a taste of the South? After what seemed like forever, the rewards for not pinching your brother were nuggets of crispy okra fresh outta the fryer; a warm, crumbly square of sweet peach cobbler; and the grits – can’t forget the grits. Well, these days, you no longer have to suffer through 17 rounds of the License Plate Game in order to sink your teeth into the South. Southern ingredients are taking St. Louis by storm and, lucky for us, a few top-notch chefs are eager to celebrate them with new takes on old classics and a few well-kept secrets. In the spirit of southern hospitality, we’re spilling the beans on where you can find all of it and even how to bring it into your own kitchen. Get ready for a little southern charm.

- Photo by Greg Rannells


In This Issue: Trendwatch – A look at what’s on the plate, in the glass and atop our wish list right now

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

{The High Rise at Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood and Mike Shannon’s Grill}


Thank You for Smoking: Barbecue spots may be spreading like wildfire around these parts, but it’s the smoke in our glasses that really has us talking. After a cold-smoke infusion of the bartenders’ wood chips of choice, the liquor becomes a sort of paintbrush, casting its smoky stroke on everything it touches. Dive right in with the smoked-vermouth-laden High on the Hog at Hendricks BBQ or the cold-smoked aperol at Cielo. For a milder entry to this smoker-to-sipper trend, try the High Rise at Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood and Mike Shannon’s Grill, where a flicker of smoke deepens as the cold-smoked ice melts.

Less Is More: When Niche opened the doors to its new Clayton home with a tasting menu-only format, the shift was met with both excitement and frustration. But the renowned fine-dining restaurant isn’t the only one testing the local waters with limited options. Diners at nearby Little Country Gentleman must opt for either the 3-course menu or the grand tasting menu (The latter, numbering around 16 courses, has dropped in price to $78 a head.), while Anthony Devoti is offering a 5-course taster at Five Bistro on The Hill. Will we see more fine-dining spots move in this direction? Considering the creative license such a pared-down approach lends the chef, we sure hope so.

Head, Shoulders, Ears and Toes: You’ve had pig’s face and feet, butt and belly. The latest body part to benefit from the nose-to-tail trend: pig’s ears. We had ‘em deep-fried as a rich counter to hearty kale in a sprightly salad this spring at pop-up restaurant A Good Man Is Hard to Find, and we’ve sliced into the naturally chewy meat rendered silken in a terrine at Farmhaus.

Ingredient Alert: Umami in a Bottle: Considering folks are aging just about everything these days and the fact that so many chefs covet fish sauce as their secret weapon, we should’ve seen this one coming. Sneak into the kitchens everywhere from Blood and Sand to the here-now-gone A Good Man is Hard to Find to newly opened The Libertine, and you’ll find a bottle of BLiS Barrel-Aged Fish Sauce. For this wax-sealed condiment, Red Boat Fish Sauce gets aged for seven months in bourbon barrels that have already worked their magic on BLiS maple syrup. The result: a rich sauce with slight sweetness and subtle smokiness that lets chefs infuse umami into just about anything.

White Out: When YellowTree Farm’s Justin Leszcz grows it, the chefs will come. The latest crop making its way onto menus? Japanese white sweet potatoes. Find them stuffed – along with house-made chorizo – into a taco at Mission Taco Joint or head to Mission’s sister restaurant Milagro Modern Mexican where chorizo and sweet potato are the filling for empanadas or turned into a tasty hash. At Farmhaus, the veggie is cozying up to house-smoked ham and scallops at Farmhaus, and embracing its Asian roots with curried rice at The Agrarian.

Riding the Third Wave: When Scott Carey first opened the doors to his third-wave coffee bar Sump Coffee, he wasn’t sure anyone would be willing to wait for his hand-brewed methods and precisely pulled espresso shots. Two years later, the South City spot is the watering hole of choice for the city’s coffee-loving cognoscenti. And with local coffee chain Kaldi’s launching a renewed focus on hand-brew techniques at all of its cafes, it’s easier than ever to get a taste of coffee’s third wave no matter where you live. Stop by Picasso’s Coffee House in St. Charles, Comet Coffee in Dogtown, VB Chocolate Bar in Cottleville and soon-to-open Rise Coffee House in The Grove for a hand-brewed cup.

Meals on Wheels: Why go to dinner at one restaurant when you can eat an appetizer at one, enjoy an entree at another, nibble dessert at the one next door and have a night cap just down the street? That’s the idea behind STL Culinary Tours, Dishcrawl and Savor Saint Louis, three new businesses offering food tours of our city’s most food-filled streets and neighborhoods, complete with behind-the-scenes tables, chats with the chef and strolls from one hot spot to the next.

–Photo by Jonathan Gayman

In This Issue: Southern Comforts – Books

Monday, July 15th, 2013


Inspired to bring a taste of the South into your kitchen? Crack open these titles, and you’ll have grits, greens and gumbo down in no time.



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