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The Scoop: Chefs on the move

December 4th 03:12pm, 2012

Three area chefs are adding heat to an already hot restaurant scene. Brian Hardesty (pictured, left) co-owner of food truck Guerrilla Street Food, is planning to open a restaurant, as reported by St. Louis Magazine’s George Mahe. Hardesty, who was executive chef for the short-lived Root at Starr’s in Richmond Heights and who previously helmed now shuttered Terrene, plans to open his restaurant, Element, at 1419 Carroll St., on the doorstep of the Lafayette Park neighborhood.

Element will be a “modern American restaurant that is local, seasonal and affordable,” said Hardesty. Its home will be on the second and third floors of the former power plant for City Hospital. The industrial feel of the space – there will be a restaurant and a lounge as well as two outdoor terraces – is also one of the inspirations for the restaurant’s name, related Hardesty, adding that the name was abstract enough to give the concept and the cuisine some “freedom.”

Leeway will be key, Hardesty emphasized, since his newest project is still in its infancy. “We’ve got blueprints drawn out. But until construction starts, I can’t say when it will be completed. Summer of 2013 is totally a guess. It’s more like, ‘hope [for] summer.’”

While Hardesty is excited to be back in the world of fine dining, he is still involved with Guerrilla Street Food, noting that he and his business partner, Joel Crespo (pictured, right), remain on the hunt to find the right brick-and-mortar place for their Filipino fusion operation. “We’re not in any hurry,” he said in regards to that business move.

John Perkins, chef-owner of underground dining and mobile catering business Entre, is another local food figure making moves. Starting in January, Perkins will be holding month-long, themed restaurants at 360 N. Boyle Ave., in the Central West End, another news item that Mahe was first to report.

Perkins’ first concept is chicken-themed Le Coq. Why chicken? “I love chicken, and I feel like it’s not very well appreciated as an ingredient,” said Perkins. “We’re trying to improve its reputation, [to show] that you can do a lot with chicken, use it a lot of ways. Pretty much every dish on the menu has chicken on it.” To get an idea of the pointedly poultry menu, check out the November 26 post on Entre’s Facebook page.

Le Coq is one of four concepts that Perkins has planned. Following Le Coq, and likely to debut in April, is A Good Man is Hard to Find. The concept, inspired by Flannery O’Connor’s short story that explores tensions between the old and new South, will feature Southern comfort food. This summer will see the arrival of a vegetarian restaurant, Green. The fourth concept, Black Walnut, will feature dishes prepared from hyper-local food sources.

Le Coq (and subsequent concepts) will operate for one month only, Thursday through Saturday, serving dinner from 6 to 10 p.m. At Le Coq, diners can choose from a 3-course prix fixe for $35, a 5-course prix fixe for $55, or a chicken dinner for four that runs at $160. The latter, noted Perkins, will also be available for carryout. Reservations to Le Coq are not necessary but will be accepted. Perkins is in the process of updating the Entre website so that reservations can be made online.

Finally, Jon Dreja is the new executive chef at Franco, as reported first by Evan Benn of the Post-Dispatch. Dreja replaces Kris Janik, who took over this spring when Chris Williams moved over to Nico, Franco’s sister restaurant in The Loop, to help open the new eatery. Dreja has worked for restaurateurs Paul and Wendy Hamilton at Eleven Eleven Mississippi and most recently at Vin de Set.

By Ligaya Figueras

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