Hello Stranger | Login | Create Account
 
 
 
 
 
  SAUCE MAGAZINE
|
Oct 17, 2017
|
Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
|
SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
Email | Text-size: A | A | A

What I Do

What I Do: Bernie Lee of Hiro Asian Kitchen

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

092817_whatido

 

Leaving everyone and everything you know to come to the United States and pursue a dream is the quintessential immigrant experience. Hiro Asian Kitchen owner Bernie Lee’s story is no different. After leaving Malaysia to study, learn the culture and improve his English in St. Louis, Lee seized the opportunity to open his own restaurant (609 Restaurant & U Lounge).

Now Lee serves some of the city’s best Asian fusion at Hiro, where he has slowly added Malaysian dishes he grew up eating. At first, he wanted to have a business that welcomed all people. Now, it’s become a place where he can share his culture.

 

“You just have to learn how to survive. When I was in [college], one of my classmates told me I spoke the worst English he ever heard in his life. It was so embarrassing. I didn’t know how to express myself. In my class, I was always the last pick [in a group presentation] because they thought I didn’t speak well. I spoke six other languages they didn’t even understand. But it forced me to be better.”

“I’m Malaysian-Chinese. My parents are first-generation Malaysian-Chinese. My grandparents in the 1940s were refugees. They escaped from China, from the revolution, very young – 15, 16, 17. They were very poor, and as refugees, what do they know? They worked. They had tons of babies – work, have a baby, work, have a baby. Refugees, they all have to go through the same things. It’s never easy.”

“The motivation behind 609 was I was not treated nicely at a bar one day. I was bullied in public. I told myself someday I need to create a place where everybody is welcome. Two years later, I had an opportunity to open my own place. To be honest, I was 27, I was young. I said, ‘Screw it, let’s do it! If I fail, I fail.’”

“Americans only eat fish fillet. No bone! No skin! No head! No tail! Nothing! So that’s what I had been taught. Only fillet. So, this is what I know. I had opened 609 and one day I thought, ‘Why don’t we do whole fish?’ People said, ‘No, no, no. Nobody will touch that!’ All right. One day I went to [a local restaurant], and it’s all white folks, and they tell me, ‘Our most famous dish is a red snapper.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s order that.’ It came out whole fried red snapper! Everyone was ordering it, loving it, no problem. You go to this restaurant, pay $30 for a whole crispy fish – it’s just salt, pepper that’s it – you think it’s a great dish. The whole fish in an Asian restaurant, people say, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And I bet they would not even pay $15 for it. It drives me nuts. That’s why for Malaysian Week we [had] whole fish. Head, tail, bone, everything. This is how we eat it back home and that’s how it should be.”

“Just cook it the way you want it. I tell the kitchen, don’t worry how people will like it or not like it. If they don’t like it? Fine! Sorry! Pick another one. I’m very proud of them.”

“Even though the plate is nice, it still has the flavor that reminds them of home. The chicken clay pot [at Hiro], the origin is from Taiwan; we cook it Taiwanese style. This is a dish like meatball pasta – everybody makes good meatball pasta, but when you eat it you go, ‘Oh, my mom’s is better.’ One woman ordered it, and I saw she was crying. I asked if she was OK, I thought she maybe burned herself. She said, ‘No, this dish reminds me of my mom.’ Her mom had passed away. She said, ‘We ate this when we were kids, this is exactly what my mom would cook.’”

“You have to trust yourself. You have to believe in your culture. If you believe, you can deliver. If you don’t believe, there’s no point.”

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Meera Nagarajan is art director at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Sauce Magazine: October 2017 

• Best of Brunch 2017

• What I Do: Alisha Blackwell-Calvert of Reeds American Table

 

What I Do: Alisha Blackwell-Calvert of Reeds American Table

Friday, September 1st, 2017

083117_whatido

 

Certified sommelier Alisha Blackwell-Calvert has a knack for navigation. She spends most of her time curating and guiding customers through Reeds American Table’s award-winning wine list, but on Saturdays, she squires tourists about town in a carriage drawn by a horse named Moose. Blackwell-Calvert recently left a promising career in beverage distribution to reenter the restaurant industry as Reeds’ beverage director, and she hasn’t looked back. Here, she shares how she spends her downtime, her thoughts on wine in a can and what she wants to be when she grows up.

“I am a science geek. I love geology; I love geography; I love culture. I had no idea that … in wine, you put all these things together. … The geography of the place and what the people are like and what they eat, and this is the wine that they make and because the sun hits this hill at a certain angle, the grapes taste this way. My mind was blown.”

“I took the entry-level sommelier exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers in Kansas City. I studied for months and months … and did very well. I felt very comfortable taking that test. After the test was over, and I got my little ‘You made it’ diploma, master sommelier Doug Frost leans over and says, ‘You should stick with this.’ … That was a big deal. It made my heart feel good.”

“It took me two weeks to think about [moving to Reeds]. I was very happy with Vintegrity and the hours and the flexibility. But I thought about my career and what I want to do when I grow up, if you will, and Alisha Blackwell-Calvert wants to be a master sommelier. It’s not something you can sign up for and it happens, but it’s what I want to work toward … and in order to do that, you need restaurant experience.”

“It’s not all glitz and glamour and slinging Dom. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. I’m constantly tasting. It’s a mountain of paperwork and spreadsheets. The fun part is hanging out on the floor trying to sell you a bottle, but there are hours and hours of work that go into making that moment happen for the guest.”

“Horses are my peaceful time, especially when I’m with my sweetheart, Moose. He’s so calm, and he’s so pretty, and he’s so friendly. We have a bond and a relationship that’s like no other. You can’t nuzzle up to a bottle of wine – or you could. I guess you could. It depends on what the wine is.”

“One thing I want to knock and can’t is wine from a can. I can’t knock it, I’ve had some good ones. They’re not all good, but the good ones are great. Friction makes really good wines in a can. … It’s like blueberry pie. I was like, ‘This is stupid – this is the worst idea ever,’ and then, ‘Aw crap, it’s good. Damn it.’”

“The typical-looking sommelier back in the day used to be the old white guy at the restaurant. Now it’s the young white guy at the restaurant, and I am neither of those things. Especially when you get to the master sommelier level, there are not a lot of people who look like me. … I don’t fit some people’s thought of how I should be. I don’t fit that stereotype or that mold. I don’t seek it out – I’m just me.”

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.

Related Content
Best New Restaurants: No. 5 – Reeds American Table

Best of Brunch 2017: Reeds American Table

Super Somms: St. Louis’ top wine students prepare to hold court

What I Do: Colleen Clawson at Milque Toast Bar

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

080117_whatido

 

Chef Colleen Clawson can do wonders with a piece of toast. Like an artist with a blank canvas, she piles vibrant ingredients into colorful, edible works of art that are devoured in short order at Milque Toast Bar. Clawson spent years in fine dining kitchens (Five Bistro, Remy’s Kitchen & Wine Bar, Sidney Street Cafe, to name a few), but she and Amanda Geimer struck out on their own two years ago with a tiny breakfast and lunch spot across the alley from Clawson’s McKinley Heights home. Here, she shares her inspirations, how she blows off steam and a brief message to avocado toast haters.

 

“Sometimes I could make things simpler, but where’s the fun in that? You have this toast and it’s this thing with 18 different elements all of a sudden, but it looks really good like that and it tastes awesome, so I’m just leaving it. I guess I’d rather people wait two extra minutes.”

“[Avocado toast] is delicious. Like, what is your problem? Why do you hate life so much? Aren’t there much more important things to be angry about? I could give you a big long list of things that are legitimately wrong that you could get mad for.”

“I have a couple of reference books that I still always go back to because they’re just so good. ‘The Flavor Bible’ … I like ‘The Herbfarm Cookbook,’ which I think is out of print now, but it’s one of my all-time favorites that I always go back to. And the ‘Chez Panisse Cookbook.’ I have some of [Alice Waters’] other ones, too, which I really like, but that’s the one I always find myself looking at again and again. I guess for the same reason you use Google. There’s an aesthetic and a style that I really enjoy, and I feel more akin to that way of making things.”

“I wish people understood they’re paying for a lot of things that aren’t just on your plate. There is a way that I could make this place even cheaper, but I’m not going to because I would have to sacrifice what’s more important.”

“It’s a great time to be in food in St. Louis. You could start with William Thomas Pauley over at Confluence Kombucha. I just saw him. Their particular place is completely unique. … Sometimes when you’ve worked in restaurants for a really long time, you look at things and you know what happened. Sometimes I look at his food and I’m like, ‘What happened? How did he do that?’ In a great way. It’s still mysterious to me.”

“I love dancing. We just went to a reggae show at 2720. Those guys are doing some really neat things down there. The whole arcade and Blank Space and Rumpshaker parties – those are really fun. I haven’t been to one of those in a while because it gets kind of late, and I’m way more boring than I used to be, but I feel better at 6 a.m.”

“There’s this frame shop in Soulard that I worked at where I discovered I really adored this craft. There’s definitely a craft to it. We built everything. There’s matting in framing, so there’s a lot of design and a lot of precision with it, and it feels good to me the same way making a really beautiful plate where everything is supposed to be. There’s a visual, immediate gratification.”

“[My son’s] rebellion is wanting fast food. On his birthday, … he wanted to go to Subway. I was like, ‘You’re kidding me – of all the places?’ But whatever, it’s what he wanted. So we played putt-putt golf and went to Subway. And he was really happy.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

What I Do: Mary Bogacki at Yolklore

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

WhatIDo_Jul17

 

Mary Bogacki has done it all. After getting her start schlepping buffet trays as a teen server, she found her way into the sweet world of pastry. She’s crafted delicate delights at the Four Seasons, baked comforting classics at Winslow’s Home and got downright weird at Strange Donuts. Now she’s cracking eggs at her popular Crestwood lunch spot, Yolklore. Here, the local sweets star on getting started, keeping it in the family and the future of Yolklore.

 

My first restaurant job was at Russo’s Catering. I was a banquet server. I think I was 16. It was the absolute worst. But they were shorthanded one day, and asked me to help plate up for this huge banquet for 300. So I jumped on it and started plating and thought, ‘This is awesome.’ That’s probably what sucked me in at first.”

I honestly never thought I’d end up with someone who was in the industry. But I think that that’s the only way it works out – either you have an extremely understanding partner, or someone who’s also in the industry and gets it. My dream was always to open a restaurant with my husband and have that be our family. John [Bogacki]’s dad is an executive chef, so he grew up in the culture of the kitchen. By working together, we’ve elevated each other. I couldn’t be happier. I definitely wouldn’t have done it with anyone else.”

If I wasn’t in the restaurant industry? I don’t know. I think I might have been a tattoo artist. I thought about doing that for a while, but I never had the guts. John’s always like, ‘It’s not too late!’”

We try to go out and try new stuff. We just moved to South County, so we’re trying to discover what’s there. We found a cool little Thai place by us, Thai Orchid, that has a beef noodle soup, like their version of a pho. We love going to Soulard – Tucker’s Place is our place to go there. They have the best burgers, and they’re only like $5.95. I don’t know what they do to them, but they’re great, and different from the South County location.” 

I play hockey with my dad when I can, usually late at night. There’s a group called the Wednesday Night Eagles at the ice rink in Affton. It’s just a pickup game with whoever shows up. My sister says, ‘You’re the son Dad never had.’”

We play around with so many ideas. We love the idea of doing another concept, or doing something similar to Yolklore. There’s no solid plan as of yet. We just like to dream, and don’t sit still for too long. But as of right now we’re pretty content just trying to train a solid crew and getting everything where it needs to be.”

Photo by Izaiah Johnson

What I Do: Logan Ely at Square1 Project

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

loganely

 

Chef Logan Ely doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he’s figuring it out. A St. Louis native, Ely moved back in February after stints at James Beard Award-winning restaurants like Blue Hill in New York City and Pass & Provisions in Houston, to name a few.

He started his underground dinner series, Square1 Project, while looking for a permanent restaurant space. With a propensity for fermented flavors and radically sustainable ingredients – think weaver ants, not just local produce – he serves unique, 14-course tasting menus prepared with minimal equipment and limited resources. He might just know more than he’s letting on.

 

“I had zero money. I had a couple friends who I knew would help me and be a part of it, but I had zero vendors. I was like, ‘Oh, shit. How are we going to do this?’ That’s square one: I know I need tables and chairs. I know I need to get a good credit card and max that thing out. I didn’t want help. I wanted to build this up to something … find my voice. I think it’s the same thing with a writer or a painter. You need a venue to write and get better at what you do, and this is what that is for me – and us, I should say. That’s Square1 Project.”

“Cooking is such a hard thing to do and dedicate your life to. To me, it has to mean something. It’s gotta be important. It’s not enough to just open a restaurant and be like, okay now I want to get an award or two. … I certainly wouldn’t call myself an activist at all, but I’m in that realm of, ‘Hey, it’s OK to eat insects, and look – I can make this taste really good, and it’s sustainable, and you get to support this woman in Denver that’s really trying to do this thing.’ [Wendy Lu McGill, from Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch] is an activist. She’s out doing speeches and all that stuff. I think that’s where I see this whole project, restaurant, team going.”

“I’m not going to hand you a bowl of maggots or anything. You won’t even probably see the bugs. Right now I have a garum, a fish sauce, going with crickets and a miso that will take 10 weeks with weaver ants. It’s not gross. I wish I had some on me – I’ve been giving people tastes. When the vendors come by I’m like, ‘Here, taste this.’”

“It’s not like a chef comes into a kitchen and writes a menu and teaches a cook how to do it and that’s it. It’s like, ‘Hey, the fish delivery didn’t show up,’ or, ‘Hey, there’s a gas leak,’ or, ‘This thing caught on fire,’ or, ‘The health inspector is going to shut us down unless this is fixed.’ It’s literally that every single day. It’s the unglamorous part of the gig. It’s what all these Netflix shows don’t show – the chef in the back trying to fix the oven.”

“[North Pond in Chicago] was the first restaurant I worked at where it was so hard, I hated every day of it. Nothing was ever right that I did, nothing was ever good enough. I wasn’t fast enough. I wasn’t clean enough. I was terrible. I had stomachaches every day. … And then, a year-and-a-half goes by, and you realize, ‘I’m way better than my first day.’ The chef [Bruce Sherman] pulled me outside and was like, ‘Hey, good job. You did really well. I pushed you really hard and you were there every step of the way and you grew a lot and I’m really proud of you.’ That was huge.”

“There’s always those things you don’t learn as a cook. Anything fermented, you don’t get a lot of in kitchens – most health departments or inspectors don’t like to see that shit around. So when we were in New York, me and my buddy decided we should know how to do charcuterie. So we started fermenting meat, and we ended up with like seven refrigerators full in our Brooklyn apartment – it was hilarious. He actually now owns a butcher shop in Brooklyn.”

“I get bored very easily. We’ll put something on the menu, and four weeks later I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that’s so embarrassing. I can’t believe we were actually serving that.’”

“At a successful restaurant, the chefs work more hours than the cooks. Dan [Barber, chef at Blue Hill] is a good example. Between the two restaurants, writing his book, doing TED Talks and all this stuff. He’s an awesome dude, very smart, but he’s working his ass off. He’s doing so much stuff. I think that’s inspiring, and it keeps you going if you’re having a hard night or a rough week.”

Book your reservation at Square1 Project, Twitter: @Square1_Project, Instagram: @square1_project

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Related Content
Sauce Magazine: June 2017

What I Do: Tyler Davis at Element

WWhat I Do: Patrick Olds of Louie’s Wine Dive

What I Do: Tyler Davis at Element

Monday, May 1st, 2017

050117_whatido-1

 

Tyler Davis is a details man. From crafting beautiful desserts as executive pastry chef at Element, to designing unique menus for weekly Purveyor’s Table pop-up dinners at Brennan’s, to single-handedly managing his online dessert business, Alchemy Artisan Bakery, Davis aims his self-proclaimed Type A tendencies at confections as visually stunning as they are delicious. Here, the busy sweet tooth shared about finding his passion and making it happen.

“Mom’s the strongest person I know. I didn’t have a father figure growing up – Mom was my mom and my dad. I fell into cooking because she couldn’t always be around to cook. When I was 9 or 10 I was like, ‘I don’t want to eat ramen noodles.’ I called her up and said, ‘How do you fry chicken?’ She was like, ‘Don’t burn down the house.’ She taught me over the phone and I made it.”

“She never bought us presents, but she would always ask what we wanted for our birthday meal and for me, that is the biggest way to show your love.”

“I went to school for cello. I wanted to be a classical musician. I love music, but when you start looking at grad school, auditions, and then you start to see the ratio of classical musicians that have jobs versus those that don’t have jobs and how difficult it is in that industry, I knew deep down inside I wasn’t passionate enough about that to take it to the next level.”

“My mind is always going. I like to start with an original thing and then mix and match it. We’ll have desserts on the spring menu like a cool version of an ice cream sandwich. It has taro ice cream with a matcha dacquoise and black sesame powder. It’s not your typical ice cream sandwich.”

“I started to cook on the side for a few friends to make a little extra money in college. … During that time, it was all experimentation, so anytime I would cook for my friends I was like, ‘Hey, I just saw this on Food Network – I want to try it.’ It definitely sparked a fire. That was the time when all the really cool shows came out, like ‘Top Chef.’ I had never seen anything like that – if I’m in college, I’m not going to spend $60 to $70 going out to eat, but when you see stuff on ‘Top Chef’ you’re like, ‘What is that! This is amazing.’ I became a sponge. Anything that had to do with cooking, I was about it. I watched ‘Yan Can Cook.’ I watched anything with Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, Anthony Bourdain, ‘Top Chef’ – Bravo! You couldn’t take me away from Bravo.”

“Alinea was overwhelming. All the courses were phenomenal, but the dessert course stood out – it was a chocolate dish. It had chocolate soil, chocolate rocks, chocolate creme brulee that was a liquid before and they poured it in a ring mold, took [it] off and it was already set and I was like, ‘I don’t even know what’s happening right now!’”

“You can’t be afraid to fail, because it’s going to happen. It’s definitely going to happen. One time I tried to bake – oh my God, it was horrible – this really, really cool pie crust. I wanted it to be cookie crust. I don’t know what I was thinking. … I ended up using baking soda instead of baking powder, and it completely went everywhere and flooded out the oven. But you can’t be afraid to try new things.”

 

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Meera Nagarajan is art director at Sauce Magazine.

Related Content
Sauce Magazine: May 2017

What I Do: Patrick Olds of Louie’s Wine Dive

The Scoop: Josh Charles leaves Element, heads to Blood & Sand

 

What I Do: Patrick Olds of Louie’s Wine Dive

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

032817_patrick

 

In 2010, Patrick Olds was contemplating going to law school while serving at the Four Seasons, with wine knowledge limited to the color of the liquid in the bottle. The 27-year-old beverage director and general manager of Louie’s Wine Dive has learned a few things since then. After countless hours studying for his advanced sommelier certification, a rigorous exam that focuses on theory, blind tasting and serving some of the best in the business, Olds passed in March. Here, Clayton’s wine prodigy shares his thoughts on tasting, testing and the can’t-miss glass on Louie’s ever-changing wine board.

Learning Curve
“My parents never drank wine growing up. When I first started at the Four Seasons, I didn’t know the difference between riesling and merlot.”

Tasting 101
“The best way to tell the quality of a wine is to swish it around in your mouth like mouthwash – really get it in every avenue – then swallow it and tell me what you think.”

Bipolar
“When you go six-for-six, there’s nothing really that tops that amount of euphoria: You just blind-tasted six wines in 25 minutes, and you nailed them. But if you go one out of six, there’s nothing that will bring you down faster. It’s a little polarizing.”

Song and Dance
“If you’re a trial lawyer, you’re up and performing the way that you may be in service situations. I feel like I’m a decent performer. I feel like I do well in those situations. In addition, all those things that you learn – all the laws throughout Missouri and federal laws – I’m learning laws in different languages from around the world. The only thing that’s really different is that part of my test is drinking wine.”

Next-level Service
“I went to Sepia [in Chicago]. … Everything about the dining experience was exquisite. … If a server is doing their job at a high level, their head is on a swivel and they’re looking around all the time, so they’ll see people looking up. Immediately, I was always approached. Drinks were never empty, water was never empty, the table was spotless. It was just pristine.”

Insider Tip
“I will always have a GC riesling up on the board – GC means grand cru. Those don’t sell as much, but anyone that gets a glass of that, they’re always so amazed. … If I ever have a chance to drink anything really special, it’s GC riesling. It’s a sommelier’s dream.”

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Related Content

The Scoop: Louie’s Wine Dive to open location in Clayton

Reviews: Louie’s Wine Dive

Super Somms: St. Louis’ top wine students prepare to hold court

What I Do: Justin Harris and Ryan Griffin of Saint Louis Hop Shop

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

whatido_mar17

 

Brothers Justin Harris and Ryan Griffin want to talk to you about beer. They’ve set up their Saint Louis Hop Shop with that in mind: choosing the foot traffic-heavy Cherokee Street neighborhood, hosting beer events and offering a short menu of pours to enjoy while you peruse their shelves of carefully selected bottles. Here, the brothers of beer talk family, community and Cherokee Street.

In it Together

“One benefit that comes [from working with family] is understanding – like understanding who they are as a person. I grew up with him; he grew up with me. I know who he is; he knows who I am.” – R.G.

“We get along pretty well – we always have. I think it goes back to what Ryan was saying: We know what to expect from each other, both good and bad. I know I do things that drive him crazy, and he could say the same thing. But at the end of the day, there’s comfort in knowing that you’ve got somebody who’s family – that’s my brother, you know.” – J.H.

Gateway Beer

“It was Boulevard 80-Acre, if I’m not mistaken … a hoppy wheat beer. It was so much different from [Natty Light] – it was no comparison. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t about drinking beer until you can’t drink anymore. I could have one or two after class, and that would be it for the night.” – J.H.

St. Louis on the Rise

“Opening this store has opened my eyes to things outside of what I was familiar with: different people, different ideas, different backgrounds and how St. Louis is coming together, investing in small communities. … People are accepting of new, fresh ideas and I feel like St. Louis is undergoing a renaissance.” – R.G.

Price of Entry

“The cool thing about the beer industry is that for the most part you’re dealing with a lot of like-minded people. … Events have been a key staple of who we are – the culture of the store – because you really get to engage with people past, like, ‘That’ll be $9.99.’ … No beer unless you talk to us.” – J.H.

Candy Crush

“I’m into stouts, and I’d say brown beers, porters, brown ales. … I’m like a candy fiend. I have a big sweet tooth. I’m really into chocolate, something that’s more hearty … those things that lather your tongue with sweetness.” – R.G.

Cherokee Street

“Cherokee Street is a very vibrant place, and people want to be down here. … It’s a great energy. And I feel like it’s a huge support system, between us and other businesses. A lot of stuff in our store came from Antique Row. I go to Byrd & Barrel like every other day. We get coffee at Foam all the time. … You just feel like you’re a part of something when you walk up and down the street.” – R.G.

Photo by Izaiah Johnson

What I Do: Meredith and Rick Schaper of Dogtown Pizza

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

012616_dogtown

 

Rick and Meredith Schaper had big plans in 2006: open a pizzeria serving St. Louis-style pies. But when the economy started to decline, the Schapers had to try another strategy. Today, more than 300 retailers carry frozen Dogtown Pizza, each handmade and flash-frozen at their warehouse in North City. Here, the Schapers tell how their business thrived in a tanking economy – and why they’ll never move to West County.

The Early Years
“The only pizza I had until I was 14 was Imo’s. My first sleepover, we had Domino’s with pepperoni, and I didn’t know what either one of them was. For us, [pizza] was a special occasion. We went and sat at Imo’s – we didn’t even get carryout.” – M.S.

“The real core of me is Farotto’s Pizza in Rock Hill. I started there when I was 11 and worked there until I was 21, so I had 10 years in a pizzeria. Literally, you’re at the most influential stage of your life from 11 to 21. That was my life. I didn’t think I’d do anything but work at that place. I was already the kid that hung out with my mom in the kitchen. [There are] stories of me on a stool, licking the strings off the roast beef.” – R.S. 

A Rough Start
“We invited some investors and tried to throw a party to raise money for a restaurant, and we got zero dollars. … It was right when [the economy] was crumbling. In our first year being in the frozen business, restaurants closed left and right. … The good fluke was people stopped going out to eat and grocery shopped more, and that’s where we were – in the grocery stores.” – R.S.

“Talk about trial and error. The first batch of labels weren’t coded so that the ink wouldn’t run in the freezer. We didn’t know to tell [the printer] that. When we said we were putting it on a pizza, we thought they knew!” – M.S.

Dogtown or Die
“Everybody asks, ‘When are you moving out to Chesterfield?’ Never – I’m staying in my nice cozy brick home in Dogtown. … My parents met and dated in Dogtown. My mom grew up and went to grade school at St. James the Greater and got married at St. James the Greater in the ’50s, and our first house is on the same street as my parents’ first house. … It’s still in the city, it’s close to everything, and the community and people are just tight-knit.” – R.S.

Long Live Pepperoni
“I hate plain cheese pizza. I hate my own cheese pizza. It just feels like it’s unfinished. It makes no sense to me.” – R.S.

“It’s like ordering a Jack and Coke and getting a glass of ice.” – M.S.

Dogtown Pizzeria?
“There’s a really strong fire inside me that still wants [to open a restaurant] because I enjoyed it, but then I go back to the risk of restaurants, the hours, the toll on your body and I say no way. … I’m not saying I couldn’t make it work – of course, in my mind I know I could – but there’s still a risk.”– R.S.

Photo by Kat Niehaus

Related Content
• Sauce Magazine: February 2017

The Scoop: Dogtown Pizza to move operations to support “serious growth”

 

What I Do: Dana Huth and Ben Triola of Mauhaus Cat Cafe and Lounge

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

WhatIDo_Blog_Jan17

 

There’s a small island off the coast of southern Japan so overrun with cats that it makes internet cat videos look like a cheap ball of yarn. But before you start booking expensive airfare, try relaxing at Mauhaus Cat Cafe and Lounge, a new spot that caters to felines and the good people who endlessly share their memes. Co-owners Dana Huth and Ben Triola opened the cafe as a space where people can leisurely bond with and potentially adopt the animals while enjoying lunch or fresh pastries. They also co-own a software company, video game development studio and real estate investments, but said that helping animals in need is worth the stress – and the cat snuggles don’t hurt, either. Here, the couple talk about why a cat makes for a programmer’s best friend.

Getting Attached
“Basically, we’re like a big foster family for these cats, except that we also serve coffee and food. … The adoptions can be a little tough on us but ultimately it’s a very happy thing to find these cats a good home. We partner with Tenth Life Cat Rescue and they have over 100 cats in foster homes, but right now they’re almost at capacity. If we can help get cats adopted, that means Tenth Life can take in more.” –B.T.

“The cat cafes in Asia are full of specialty cats, and they’re not adoptable. Every time you go, you see the same cats. But we knew that was a problem here – so many cats need homes and so many get killed at shelters every year. … I cried when the last ones that got adopted left. I had a very special connection to those cats. But it’s so good; they have great homes.” –D.H.

Cat Magic
“We were not at all planning on opening another business until we went to this cat cafe in Thailand. We were like, ‘We have to have this at home.’ What was most magical about it was not that there were cats, but that there were so many. It’s not like going into someone’s house who has three cats. To see like 15 cats living in a space, and you get to come in, be surrounded – you get to experience their home. … And to have really nice food, that was definitely a bonus.” –D.H.

Bring on the Fun
“This is talked about a lot in the game development industry: fun is really hard to plan for. It can be really elusive … you don’t know on paper if XYZ is going to be fun, so you have to build something and then play with it and then go back and figure out which parts were fun and which weren’t. There’s a lot of iteration. We call it ‘finding the fun.’ I think that’s kind of what we’re trying to do with the cat cafe – find the fun and share it with other people.” –B.T.

Cuteness Overload
“Any morning we come into the cafe, it’s basically a stampede of cats coming toward the door to all get attention.” –D.H.

Cat Therapy
“There’s this thing in programming, where if you have a problem you’re supposed to get a rubber duck and explain the problem to the rubber duck. In the course of explaining the problem out loud, you usually find the solution. But I think you can use the cats just as well – explain your problems to the cat and you might just figure some things out.” –B.T.

Interoffice Romance
“I feel really lucky that this is our life. It works really well for us because we’ve known each other so long, we think on the same wavelength. I think for a lot of people that could be difficult – spending that much time with your significant other, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve worked with a lot of people, had other partners, and it’s not that any of those were necessarily bad, but I’ve never been able to communicate with anyone better than I can communicate with Dana. It makes sense that we do pretty much all things together.” –B.T.

 

Heather Hughes and Kevin Korinek contributed to this article. 

Photo by Ashley Gieseking 

Related Content
Sauce Magazine: January 2017

First Look: Mauhaus Cat Cafe and Lounge in Maplewood

What I Do: Doug Marshall, The Tamale Man

What I Do: Mark “Garlic” Brown of Gateway Garlic Farms 

RSS FEEDS
Keep up with one or all of your favorite Sauce Magazine columns
Conceived and created by Bent Mind Creative Group, LLC 1999-2017, Bent Mind Creative Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Sauce Magazine 1820 Chouteau Ave. St. Louis, Missouri 63103.
PH: 314-772-8004 FAX: 314-241-8004