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Feb 20, 2018
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Ones to Watch 2016: Ashley Shelton

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016



Title: Executive chef, Pastaria
Age: 26
Why Watch Her: Dreams and dreamy pasta – Shelton makes it all happen.

On a busy Saturday night, Ashley Shelton and her crew can serve up to 500 people in one shift. Instead of barking commands at her cooks, Shelton motivates them in her own way. “When it gets hard, I start singing. The dishes have their own songs,” she said. “And I hand out candy and Kool-Aid. I like to run a fun line.”

Shelton credited her mother, who passed away when she was only 14, for instilling a love of cooking. Three years later, as a high school junior aiming toward culinary school, Shelton landed a job on the line at the venerable Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield. “That’s where I learned speed, discipline and how to clean a kitchen. … I learned from the best,” Shelton said.

Laser focus then propelled her to The Culinary Institute of America, where she first made bucatini all’a amatriciana, the traditional Italian entree that would become her calling. “That dish was so good, it made me want to study Italian food,” Shelton said. And so she did, moving to Florence to earn a Masters in Italian Cuisine from the Apicius International Hospitality Institute.

Shelton first met chef Gerard Craft in Italy, while he was on a research trip before opening Pastaria. “He interviewed me over dinner, and it was an awful meal. We joke about it now,” Shelton said, laughing. Craft hired her as Pastaria’s line cook before the restaurant even opened its doors, and then, in February last year, offered her the executive chef position.

Craft is proud and supportive of Shelton. “Ashley is a rare breed. She is able to lead a massive kitchen with a smile, a sense of humor and with a confidence usually found in much older chefs,” he said. “Ashley is quite simply the best, and I am guessing that this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

We agree. With her can-do attitude and passion for Italian cuisine, songs will be sung about Shelton – and her bucatini – for years to come.


This Friday on Sound Bites, The Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.​ chef Jessie Gilroy, a member of the Ones to Watch class of 2015, and Pastaria chef Ashley Shelton join Sauce to discuss their leadership roles in some of St. Louis’ most prestigious kitchens. Tune in to St. Louis Public RadioFriday, Jan 8. at noon and 10 p.m. for Sound Bites on Cityscape.

– photo by Carmen Troesser


Meatless Monday: Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Monday, November 24th, 2014



Your Thanksgiving green bean casserole can still hearken back to Aunt Susan’s classic recipe – without resorting to a pile of canned goods. Even vegans can enjoy this version, which subs creamed soup for puréed red potatoes and mushrooms that blanket fresh green beans in velvety goodness. And those fried onions you always stole from the top when no one was looking? We crisp up quinoa flakes and shallots to get that salty sweet crunch you know and love. Get the recipe here.


-photo by Carmen Troesser

Guide to the Holidays 2014: How Not to Be a Potluck Jackass

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014



Hooray! Someone likes you enough to invite you to his potluck dinner. But don’t screw it up by being a nitwit. Not clear on what exactly constitutes such behavior? Read on for a comprehensive list of potential potluck party fouls. Avoid them, and you’ll secure an invite to next year’s shindig before the night is over. Commit them, and you better hope the host appreciates your better half.

1. Do recon. Ask around, then prepare a dish that complements the other guests’ offerings. Don’t be the lazy twit who whips up slice n’ bake cookies while someone else sweats over mini creme brulee. Presenting a posh pate to an onion dip crowd is an equally boneheaded move.

2. Don’t ask to use the oven. Your hosts have carefully timed the prep and cooking of their own dishes. If they can’t cook their lasagna because you’re baking your brie en croûte, you’re a self-important dolt. Slow cookers are a great way to keep food warm – if your host has available electrical outlets. Better yet, choose a dish that is served at room temperature.

3. Do supply your own serving spoons. It’s poor form to assume your host has enough serving pieces for everyone. But as potluck gaffes go, this is a relatively minor infraction. If you accidentally leave your cake cutter at home on the kitchen counter, don’t sweat it. You’re only kind of a jerk.

4. Do keep your food issues to yourself unless you have a life-threatening allergy. Otherwise, use common sense to determine what you should pile on your plate. People who make a production about what they can and can’t eat are attention-seeking blockheads. Bonus jackass points go to anyone who declares food to be “clean” or “unclean.” Leave the paleo platitudes at home.

5. Do be transparent about the ingredients if asked. This is the flip side of the previous faux pas. Always disclose what’s in your dish. Anyone who says there’s no meat in something made with chicken broth – even if it’s “just a splash” – is a certifiable jackass.

6. Don’t get drunk. Let this be your party mantra, and not just at potlucks. Getting so sloshed that you tumble down the stairs, fling your cocktail, and land on another guest’s husband is the jackass trifecta. If you find yourself in that undignified position, immediately redeem yourself by offering to host the potluck next year. Then compliment the host’s lasagna.


-illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan



Readers’ Choice 2014: Favorite Cajun/Creole – Broadway Oyster Bar

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014


{Meet some of the Broadway Oyster Bar staff: From left, Casey Donavan, Donna Hornachek, Josh Chartrand, Tory Johnson, Blair Govero, Mike Bridgeman, Brett Johnson, Bobby King, Kathryn Pilch, Jenny Hammond, Stefanie Ricci, Michelle Vessells, Brad Zipprich}

Why did readers vote Broadway Oyster Bar the Best Cajun/Creole restaurant in St. Louis for the 12th year running? Because the menu is packed with the tastiest oysters, crawfish, crab legs and alligator north of NOLA. We sat down with owner John Johnson and his staff to find out what it’s like to work in a place that’s impossible to define with customers who defy stereotyping. As the seasoned, snarky waitstaff tells it, they love each other almost as much as they love the food, and they can always find something to laugh about, even after a 15-hour shift. Just don’t ask for separate checks.

What dishes do you snarf on back in the kitchen?
The alligator sausage and shrimp cheesecakes, crawfish enchiladas, Crawfish Mona. – Mike Bridgeman, server

What’s it like to work during a Cardinals day game?
You get to see the beginning and then (the fans) come back, and sometimes they take the same table. I’ll think, Oh my gosh, you were so different earlier. You did a lot of drinking in three hours! – Michelle Vessells, server

Fill in the blank. Whatever you do, don’t order the:
Mozzarella sticks and toasted ravioli. We don’t have that stuff. – Kathryn Pilch, server

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen a customer do?
Eat a whole bucket of boiled crawfish. – John Johnson

Why is that strange?
He ate the whole thing. Seriously, the whole bucket. Shells, heads and all. – Stephanie Ricci, server

Tell me a musician story.
Dick Dale, he’s the King of Surf Guitar … he was playing with a cordless guitar. All of the sudden – (he’s) an older guy – he jumped down off the stage, walked through the crowd, all the way out the front door. Everyone was like, ‘Where’d he go?’ He went around the corner, over to the White Castle, and walked through the drive-thru. His whole band is still playing on stage. The car that’s getting served pulls away and he walks up, with his guitar, playing, and sticks his head in the window. He just felt like going over and saying hi. He never stopped playing. Obviously everyone went crazy. – Johnson

When is it hard to be a server here?
When you try to (serve) the food, and no one responds to you. You ask, “Who had the jambalaya?” and nobody knows what they ordered.
– Bridgeman

What do you do when someone orders something right before the kitchen closes?
We smile, and serve them, and cross our fingers they don’t order the crab legs. Crab legs take a long time to eat. In the last 30 minutes, you just know you’re going to get two orders of crab legs. And I’m like, if you’re going to wait for one order of crab legs, might as well wait for two. – Vessells

What do you wish people knew about Broadway Oyster Bar?
We don’t take separate checks. Why? Imagine having a big party at your house, 200 people, and trying to keep track of what everybody ate and drank. It’s the same thing here. People get upset, but they don’t realize. This ain’t Tony’s, where people come and sit in their seat. That would be way easier. – Johnson

Find out who else you voted your favorites in St. Louis. Click here to see all our Readers’ Choice winners.


-photo by Ashley Gieseking

Meatless Monday: Summer Lasagna

Monday, July 7th, 2014


Lasagna has something for everyone. Cheese. Starch. More cheese. But vegetarian lasagna? Well that’s usually just Mom’s recipe without the meat. Bo-ring. (Nothing against your mom. She’s lovely.) Since it’s too hot to turn on the oven and my farmers market produce overfloweth, it’s time to find a new twist on this old favorite.

Ready for a vegetarian lasagna that doesn’t require gallons of tomato sauce or even pasta? Click here for the recipe and click here to read more about how a friend’s love affair with polenta inspired Kellie Hynes to create this vibrant vegetarian dish.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

Meatless Monday: Vegan Jackfruit Carnitas

Monday, June 23rd, 2014



Barbecue season is upon us, which means meat, meat and more meat … and leaves poor vegetarians and vegans to make a meal with some sorry sides. Fear not; it’s jackfruit to the rescue.

Looking at a fresh jackfruit, you wouldn’t expect it to inspire anything. In fact, if one snuck into your house, you’d probably whack it with a baseball bat. A fresh jackfruit is humongous, oblong and yellowish green. Like an 80-pound alien booger with tumors. But the inside, ah, the inside of this gentle giant is interesting. Crack open a jackfruit and you’ll find pale yellow, fibrous flesh that vaguely resembles a pineapple. With tumors – er, seeds. OK, the jackfruit is not going to win any beauty prizes, but those fibers and seeds are where the magic happens. They soak up the flavors of the sauce you cook them in. And, yes, when you tear it up, braised jackfruit has the exact look and mouth feel of pulled pork.

Read more about the weird, wonderful powers of jackfruit here, and get the recipe for Vegan Jackfruit Carnitas here.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

Meatless Monday: Black Bean, Spinach and Feta Empanadas

Monday, April 14th, 2014



Looking for a Mexican restaurant? Ask vegetarians. Their GPS will find one like chips find salsa. Mexican restaurants, no matter how plain or fancy, promise a variety of meat-free options well beyond the ubiquitous iceberg wedge. Plus, margaritas are vegan.

As a home cook, I heart Mexican cuisine because the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to prepare. But how many taco nights can you have? (Not a rhetorical question – I’m really asking. Is two per week too many?)

So … in hopes of expanding my repertoire beyond cheese quesadillas, I studied up on empanadas. “Empanada” is Spanish for a pastry stuffed with yumminess. The specific yumminess depends on what’s produced locally. In some parts of the world, you’ll find empanadas filled with beef or eggs. In other parts, street vendors sell sardine or chorizo empanadas. And in warmer regions, sweet empanadas ooze with gooey yams and fruit.

Here in the Midwest, our empanadas usually tout chicken or beef, so I decided to create a vegetarian version. Black beans are the abundant resource in my habitat and would make a substantial filling.

Find out how Kellie Hynes took black beans to the next level. Get the recipe for Black Bean, Spinach and Feta Empanadas.

The List: Stone Soup Cottage

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Welcome to The List, our annual homage to the people, places, dishes and drinks we love in St. Louis. Don’t miss a single pick; click here to read the whole List and share your thoughts on Twitter with #thesaucelist.



If your urbane coastal friends think St. Louis is a cow town surrounded by fields, embrace their misconception with an evening at Stone Soup Cottage. Located in the footprint of a 1929 barn, this elegant, fine-dining restaurant, which was built with much of the original barn’s wood, really is surrounded by farmland. It provides chef Carl McConnell and his wife, Nancy, almost all of the produce for their seasonal six-course, prix fixe dinners. Stone Soup is farm-to-table cuisine at its most literal and just a 45-minute car ride from downtown.

5809 Highway N, Cottleville, 636.244.2233, stonesoupcottage.com

-photo by Carmen Troesser

The List: Beef Brisket Sandwich at Busch Stadium

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Welcome to The List, our annual homage to the people, places, dishes and drinks we love in St. Louis. Don’t miss a single pick; click here to read the whole List and share your thoughts on Twitter with #thesaucelist.



You can only eat so many nachos without feeling cheesy. Next time, check out chef Norman Taylor’s brisket. It’s marinated in a secret house-made wet rub, then smoked for 13 hours on-site. One bite of the tender, barbecued bliss tucked inside a toasted onion kaiser roll, and you’ll know why more than 1,200 pounds of brisket are sold at every home game. Pick the house salad as a side, and you’ve got a plate worth guarding.

Available at The Carvery in Section 148, Broadway BBQ in section 128 and in the private suites. 700 Clark St., St. Louis, 314.345.9600, stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com

-photo courtesy of Busch Stadium

Meatless Monday: Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Monday, March 31st, 2014



If chocolate equals seduction, how do you woo the dairy-adverse? I searched for a vegan chocolate mousse recipe. Several called for mashing up avocados, adding unsweetened cocoa and drizzling the whole thing with agave nectar. It was just so weird; I had to try it.

Find out how Vegetize It took a recipe that tasted like “sweet dirt” and turned it into a faux-chocolate mousse so smooth and light, you’re vegan friends may accuse you of deception. Click here for the recipe.

-photo by Greg Rannells

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