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Jan 24, 2018
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Ones to Watch 2017: Alex Pille of Annie Gunn’s

January 1st 01:01am, 2017

OTW_Alex_Blog_Jan17

 

Title: Sous chef, Annie Gunn’s
Age: 28
Why watch him: His gardening exploits are likely to land on your plate.

Annie Gunn’s sous chef Alex Pille grows the usual slate of Midwestern fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and peppers, but that’s where the similarities to your grandmother’s garden end.

“I love to try new things,” Pille said. “Amaranth is an ancient grain crop. It has a giant flowering head that can be dried and is kind of like quinoa.” He’s also grown sorghum, rice, saffron and zucca – one of the world’s largest gourds that can weigh up to 100 pounds.

He grows produce his boss, executive chef Lou Rook III, never knew existed and some stuff he has a hard time finding. “I’ve been working with farmers since 1989 and had never heard of these [lemon drop] chiles,” Rook said. “I was so excited about them and Alex goes, ‘Oh yeah, I grew those last year. They’re great.’”

“I research online, but with the more obscure things, it only goes so far,” said Pille. “That’s where the chef part comes in. I found out a lot of people use zucca as a filler in jams. I decided to make applesauce with it. It worked out great.”

The current beneficiaries of Pille’s harvest are his family, friends and sometimes diners at Annie Gunn’s. But that may change.

“Last year I had a variety of around 60 plants growing,” Pille said. “I kept expanding my garden and before I knew it, it was a quarter of an acre.” This spring he plans to plant at least one of the five acres he recently bought in De Soto. “Hopefully by the end of the year, I can have a greenhouse out there, too.”

For Pille, farm-to-table is not a marketing gimmick; being a better farmer makes him a better chef. “He’s farming the food to bring to the table,” Rook said. “He understands food, how to prepare different things, because of his farming background.”

Eventually, he’d like to have his own produce business, selling to area restaurants. “I could be in both realms. I can grow unique things and also offer methods and applications for these obscure ingredients.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

 

By Kristin Schultz

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