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Feb 23, 2018
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On the Line

On the Line: Carrie Whitcraft at Winslow’s Home

Thursday, March 27th, 2014



Carrie Whitcraft spent years on the line in some of St. Louis’ most prestigious kitchens, including Westwood Country Club and Sidney Street Cafe, before moving to the line at Winslow’s Home three years ago. The day she sat down to talk with me it, she had begun a new position as its special events coordinator, responsible for booking and planning events in the new event space in the Winslow’s basement. Here, she talks about why a piece of her heart will always be on the line:

Working the line is fun:
“Sidney Street was a cool place to be. [Chef-owner] Kevin Nashan is eccentric and brilliant and brings a lot of passion to the kitchen. Prep time was the most fun because you’re just kind of yelling across the line, to the apps guy or to Kevin, funny things … I don’t think you could print any of it.”

Working the line is painful:
“The first big burn is always literally burned into your memory. I was at Westwood, and I was learning the saute station, and I’d never worked on the hot line. The No. 1 rule was don’t touch anything without a towel. I proceeded to grab a saute pan that had been in a 500 degree oven. It stays with you for hours.”

Working the line is glorious:
“I can’t speak for everybody, but I think its true that line cooks feel like their jobs and the more renowned the restaurant, the badder asses they are. There’s a lot of glory in what they do, and they take a lot of pride in how pretty their plate is and how beautiful the fish was seared… That sense that there is some glory in hot, dirty, dangerous line cook world is something I’ll always think about and always kind of miss.”

Working the line gives you confidence:
“Confidence is huge. In any sales job, if you don’t know what you’re selling, you’re not going to be an effective salesman, and [I know] what the kitchen is able to execute with any kind of time restraint or ability or seasonality.”

-photo by Michelle Volansky

On the Line: Staci Powell of Basso

Thursday, January 30th, 2014




Line cook Staci Powell started her career in corporate kitchens at P.F. Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory. But when the she heard about an opportunity to work in at Basso under James Beard award-winning chef Patrick Connolly, she jumped at the chance. Today, you can find Powell at the pasta station, whipping out hand-made noodles, and often working at Connolly’s side during events like Taste of St. Louis and Sidney Street Cafe’s 10th anniversary dinner. Here, she shares her experience moving to an independent kitchen and impressing Connolly with her grandmother’s fried chicken and greens.

On moving from a corporate kitchen
“You can be a lot more creative. … We take a lot of [food] from local places. … [Chef Connolly] is really big on seeing that from us, and you don’t really get that at a corporate restaurant. We also have a lot of events outside the restaurant. You get to see a different side. To do stuff like [the Sidney Street 10th anniversary dinner] is one of the best parts of this job.”

On her go-to staff meal of fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, greens and cornbread
“At staff meal, he wants you to put a lot of love in. It’s your chance to be creative and try other things and kind of wow the other employees… Chef loves [when I make that meal] because he loves Southern food. He loves when I do greens. They’re his favorite.”


-photo by Michelle Volansky


On the Line: Jessica Gilroy and Michelle Meyer of Cucina Pazzo

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

121113_ontheline2{From left, Jessica Gilroy, Michelle Meyer}


The executive chef isn’t the only person in the kitchen. In fact, the top toque will be the first to tell you that without the rest of the culinary brigade, the kitchen would go up in flames. In this column, we chat with the men and women responsible for executing the dishes that land on your plate.

Not every friendship could survive life on the line, but Jessica Gilroy and Michelle Meyer’s was forged on it. The 27-year-old chefs de cuisine met five years ago in the kitchens of Charlie Gitto’s and have been inseparable ever since. They joined executive chef Justin Haifley at The Tavern, and most recently played a major role at his newest project, Cucina Pazzo in the Central West End, where they’re easy to spot in the open kitchen. Gilroy and Meyer are the ones calling the shots and firing dishes while the kitchen team scurries to keep up. Meet the women who function as Haifley’s right – and left – hands on the line at Cucina Pazzo.

Read her mind
“Now that we have to do the orders a lot, I’m like, Oh crap, I forgot to order basil, and it’s an Italian restaurant! and she’s like, Oh, don’t worry about it, I got it …  I saw that you didn’t do it and I ordered some.”
J.G.: “Well, we go through like 3 pounds a day!”
M.M.: “It goes unspoken … It’s kind of [being] in each other’s brains…”
J.G.: “I don’t think we consciously do it anymore.”

Get on her nerves
“I’m a little more aggressive during service. I don’t like people getting in my way. I don’t like people leaving dirty towels on my station – I don’t like people leaving anything on my station, really. If you’re going to get in the oven, you better go fast or you’re going to end up in there with your food.”
J.G.: “And you better not make any noise when you’re opening that oven or hell will rain down on you.”
M.M.:  “Yes. I can tell you my shortcoming right off the bat. I’m trying to correct it.”
J.G.: “And I’m perfect! …  I can be a little messy; I’ll admit that. I know she says I’m organized, but I get just as scatterbrained as she does.”

Trust her
“I think that we both decided that there’s nobody else I would want to do this with.”
J.G.: “I think we probably would have murdered the other person by now.”
M.M.: “I have a lot of confidence in Jessica, and I’m confident in her ability to get things done and her dedication. There’s absolutely nobody else I would want to be a partner with.”
J.G.: “Aw, that’s so sweet!”
M.M.: “Yeah, she’s pretty awesome.”
J.G.: “And everything she just said about me, I think about her. Just ditto!”

-photo by Michelle Volansky

On the Line: Darren Arabie of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar and Café

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013



The executive chef isn’t the only person in the kitchen. In fact, the top toque will be the first to tell you that without the rest of the culinary brigade, the kitchen would go up in flames. In this new column, we chat with the men and women responsible for executing the dishes that land on your plate and get the inside story on life on the line.

Line cook (and Sauce intern) Darren Arabie, 24, has worked fast and furious at Jilly’s Cupcake Bar and Café under the direction of chef Dana Holland for three years. Here, he recalls the time he lost a fight with an industrial kitchen mixer that kept him off the line for three months and shares his favorite ways to break in new crewmembers.

“I was about to start a project …  so instead of setting up there and Dana coming in and moving me in few minutes … I’m just going to move to the other side of the table.  So I grabbed the [cart holding the] mixer and hit a little divot in the ground, and the mixer started to go. At first, I tried to catch it and realized, No way, it’s way too heavy for that… I realized it was going, and I tried to get out of the way and one of my feet did not make it. … Someone called [Dana] and let him know I had to go the hospital, and I think the first question he and [owner Jill Segal] and everyone asked was, ‘Well, how’s the mixer?’”

“You know the coffee makers that dispense really hot water to brew coffee? It’s never-ending hot water. You tell [a new server] at end of the shift, ‘We need you to empty out the hot water.’ So they get a pitcher, and they just keep going back and forth. It’s like tap water – it doesn’t stop. Eventually you have to tell them it doesn’t.  And if you have a walk-in cooler [you can] tell a new cook, ‘Why don’t you go get the clam legs?’ … People will just look and look and being new, they don’t want to come back and say, ‘I don’t know what that is. I can’t find it.’ So they just keep looking. It’s awesome – it never gets old.”

-photo by Michelle Volanksy



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