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Jul 20, 2017
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Meals That Changed My Life

Meals That Changed My Life: Mike Randolph

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

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Chef Mike Randolph has opened a number of restaurants since working at Chicago’s now-shuttered Moto. Starting with The Good Pie in 2008, Randolph went on to open Half & Half, Little Country Gentleman, Medianoche, Randolfi’s and Público. As he gears up to open Half & Half’s second location in Webster Groves this summer, he told us about one meal he ate in 2001 when he was at a professional fork in the road and the late chef Michel Richard changed his life.

 

Citronelle, Washington, D.C. (2001)
“I was finishing school for political science and had just kind of realized I hadn’t done well enough to get the jobs I really wanted. I didn’t want to muddle around at the bottom of the industry, so I started thinking about culinary school. One night [my wife, my parents and I] went to Michel Richard’s Citronelle in D.C. It was in the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, and the restaurant had this beautiful glass-front kitchen. It was the first time I had seen four guys plating one plate of food. And I remember thinking, ‘Look how calm everything is.’ The kitchens I had worked in were like a mad rush, and here’s this place and nobody’s breaking a sweat.

“One of the things that really stuck out to me was that there was a sense of humor in the food. They had the toques, the pressed chef jackets, tweezers, all that … but at the same time they didn’t take themselves too seriously. I remember getting a plate that looked like a sunny side up egg with bacon and toast. I think the toast was marzipan, the bacon was something, the egg was set panna cotta for the whites and a mango for the middle. Now, that dish is the Food Network version of molecular gastronomy, like, ‘You can do this at home in six easy steps!’ But in 2001, it was eye-opening. Here you are at this French institution, and you expect this delicate little financier, and then here comes this cafeteria tray. There was the sense that Michel Richard was having fun with you at the end of your meal.

“This was before Moto and Alinea. Throughout the course of the night, I was just totally blown away that food could be something that I never knew about. It was perfectly seasoned small bites of food, tons of textures – that was Michel Richard’s big thing. Every dish had some crunchy element, some kind of creative textural contrast. It was absolutely my first exposure to any of that, and I think that’s what made me so interested in Moto. At this point in my life, [molecular gastronomy] is something I’ve grown out of – now I just want a perfectly cooked piece of meat with one sauce. But I felt like at that time it was cool to research and delve into what food could be – texturally and flavor-wise. I’ve had a lot of pretty transcendent meals, but that stands alone.”

 

Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan

Editors’ Note: The print issue of this story incorrectly stated that the new Half & Half location would be in Kirkwood. This piece has been updated with the correct location. 

Meals That Changed My Life: Christy Augustin

Monday, June 6th, 2016

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Like a free dessert on your birthday, meals sometimes come with an unexpected extra. Pint Size Bakery co-owner Christy Augustin’s most memorable dining experiences came with a complimentary side of “Aha!” From staring down sprinkle cookies in Granite City to wiggling her toes in the warm Key West sand, here are the meals that changed her life.

 

Mrs. Siebold’s Bakery, Wood River, childhood
“The sprinkle cookies were (what) I had to have, always. Every time we’d go in, I’d stare at the case, eye-level with the cookies, and I had to have one. They were the one thing I knew we had to have at Pint Size. That memory of the smell of the bakery and the enjoyment and excitement – I love that. Mrs. Siebold’s is gone now, but I see it as part of Pint Size’s mission to carry on the old-fashioned bakery that welcomes children and makes things for kids or the kid in you.”

Chez Panisse Café, Berkeley, California, 1999
“It is the first time I remember being awakened by flavor. At that time, California cuisine was still getting out there in the world. (My husband Matt and I) had a lasagna that was just sliced tomatoes, pesto and cheese with fresh pasta, and the dessert was an apple or pear lightly cooked with a light syrup. Before I just ate to feed myself, not really for the enjoyment. And I had never thought much about where my food comes from, but here it was part of the conversation, and was even printed on the menus. It completely changed my perspective.”

Blue Heaven, Key West, Florida, 2002
“My husband and I eloped on a sailboat in Key West, and we went that night to a restaurant called Blue Heaven. It wasn’t anything fancy, but there was a swing in a tree and my feet were in the sand and we ate shrimp and crab and Key lime pie. That meal was the start of my life moving forward instead of being a kid and just doing whatever pleased me. I don’t remember much about the food, but it was making a conscious decision that my life was going to mean something.”

Home, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2004
“When Julia Child died, (my friends and I) did an homage to her. We were trying to cook this elaborate meal in her honor using what was seasonal. We made this torte with layers of ham and cheese and peppers and spinach wrapped in puff pastry. We made coq au vin and green beans amandine. Somebody brought profiteroles and we had chocolate mousse and a savory crab soufflé. We thought we were all so fancy. It was the pinnacle of our friendship.”

 

-illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan

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