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Dec 14, 2017
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Edison’

The Scoop: Dan Sammons takes over as Demun Oyster Bar exec chef

Monday, July 25th, 2016

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A new tide has rolled in at Demun Oyster Bar. Fifteen-year kitchen veteran Dan Sammons began his tenure as executive chef today, July 25. Sammons fills the spot left behind after chef Ben Edison exited the kitchen earlier this year. Sammons brings a range of experience from corporate operations chef at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood to working the kitchens at Berkeley, California’s eatery, Revival Bar & Kitchen.

“I fell in love with farm-to-table dining at Revival,” said Sammons. “The farmers brought the deliveries every day. We had to eighty-six menu items when we ran out of ingredients.”

For the past year and a half, Sammons has been working at LHM hotel properties, most recently serving a seven-month stint as the executive chef at Three Sixty. Both Sammons and Demun Oyster Bar general manager Tom Halaska said they are eager to work together to bring more local ingredients to the menu.

“In our initial interview, I asked him which farmers he knew and he said, ‘Which kind of farmer?’ That lead to a 45-minute conversation about who we knew and what they were doing,” said Halaska. “We have the same passion for food and drink.”

Diners can expect that passion to translate to changes on both the food and beverage menus. Halaska aims to create cocktails that complement the restaurant’s well-known oyster program and food menu, rather than a set list of standalone cocktails. “We want the food and beverage programs to work together in a unified way,” he said.

Sammons, who grew up on Southern cooking and summertime produce from his grandfather’s garden, plans to add and tweak menu items to reflect his experience. “There will be a salmon dish on the menu,” he said. “It will be like a salmon summer succotash with fresh vegetables.”

 

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Friday, March 18th, 2016

From James Beard honors to new locations of old favorites, here’s what went down last week in the STL food scene, in case you missed…

 

 

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1. Finalists for the 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced March 15, and two St. Louis-area chefs are still in the running in the Best Chef: Midwest category. The James Beard Foundation recognized Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., and Kevin Willmann, chef-owner of Farmhaus.

2. Things are heating up on Macklind Avenue as Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery announced plans to move into 4715 Macklind Ave.

 

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3. The HotPot in Kirkwood will open a new location in the old Surf Dogs building at 137 Chesterfield Town Center.

4. After nearly three years at Adam’s Smokehouse apron, Alex Cupp is firing up his own pit, The Stellar Hog in the current Super’s Bungalow.

 

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5. Ben Edison, former executive chef at Demun Oyster Bar, has taken the wheel at The Delta Queen Steamboat Co., where he became executive corporate chef in February.

6. Guerrilla Street Food plans to blow into the windy city this year and open its second location in Chicago.

 

The Scoop: Ben Edison to helm Delta Queen corporate kitchens

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

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Ben Edison, former executive chef at Demun Oyster Bar, has taken the wheel at The Delta Queen Steamboat Co., where he became executive corporate chef in February. As part of his duties, Edison will open The Port of Call in Kimmswick, the company’s corporate headquarters, and oversee the menu and kitchen on the steamboat is slated to set off on river cruses in spring 2017.

With an estimated opening date of middle to late May, The Port of Call will serve French-inspired lunch and dinner menus with ingredients sourced locally. For a Mississippi River steamboat company, that means sourcing from farmers and producers from St. Paul, Minnesota to New Orleans.

“We want to do things like twists on stuffed oysters, but also respect the historic recipes from the steamboat,” Edison said. “There’s a 90-year-old bread pudding recipe, and I’m not going to change that.”

The fine dining restaurant and steamboat will also offer beef and pork that never received antibiotic treatment, and seafood will be flown in regularly.

Alongside Edison in the kitchen will be executive sous chef Paul Holthaus, most recently of J McArthur’s in south St. Louis. The bar program will feature craft and signature cocktails featuring beer and spirits from near the Mississippi River.

Patrons will be able to grab a po’boy, hand-ground hamburger or oysters at one of the 30 seats around the bar, 100 in the dining room areas or, during warm weather on the 200-seat patio.

 

Five Questions with Ben Edison: The extended interview

Thursday, April 4th, 2013



{Executive chef Ben Edison with his daughter Delaney}

As warm air moves in, the patio at DeMun Oyster Bar is sure to fill up fast. But if it’s been a while since you stopped by this Parisian-style bar, you’ll be surprised to find more than bivalves and bubbles. Here, new executive chef Ben Edison told us what to expect at Clayton’s hippest watering hole.

When did you take over the kitchen and what have been some of the big menu changes since then? Overall, we went from a small, very limited menu to a full seafood-restaurant menu, and we also have some meat dishes. It’s not just oysters, at all. Now we have eight entrees and it’s pretty extensive.

What are some of the items on the restaurant’s new late-winter/spring menu? We do a Dungeness crab ravioli on the new menu. We have a really nice lamb porterhouse. We have a salmon in Pernod tomato sauce. We have a Pear Wellington, which is a new dessert. Everything in it we make in-house, except the phyllo dough – you’d have to be a masochist to make that. It’s star-anise-braised pears wrapped in puff pastry and then topped with Gjetöst cheese, a Danish cheese that tastes like caramel. Then we add a scoop of triple-vanilla gelato on a pool of Calvados gastrique. I act as pastry chef, too, with my daughter (pictured). She’s 17. She does the chocolate torte. We collaborate. She’s been baking since she was 8. We started a brunch on the weekends, too, and we’re still open late. You can come in and get a full entree until 11 p.m., or midnight in the summer.

Do you find that many people are still afraid to try oysters around these parts? I would rather take my chances with a raw oyster than a Chinese buffet. With all the testing they do of the water and the oysters and the tracking and the info-gathering, getting sick from an oyster is incredibly rare. At DeMun, we’re getting oysters that were in the water in the morning in Seattle, and I’ve got them in the restaurant by 6 p.m. that night.

I love oysters, but I gather some diners’ objections may have to do with an “oozy” texture. Then I say just suck ‘em down real fast – don’t chew ‘em – and you’ll get the flavor of the ocean.

How often do you eat oysters? Everyday. I’ll usually eat at least a dozen a day. I prefer them raw with nothing on them. We fly our oysters in daily; we’re the only restaurant in St. Louis that does. I have a list of 40 different oysters, and sometimes I kind of forget exactly what one tastes like, or the flavor changes because of the water supply. I have to be able to point people in the right direction.

Is there really a great variation in the taste of different oysters? I hate to make it sound like something from the movie, Sideways. When it comes to oysters, with the hint of this and that and all the silly adjectives, people can get carried away. But the different oysters range from a strong bite or salinity in the front end to a mineral-y, clean finish. Some West Coast oysters have a crisp, cucumber-y finish, but then something like the Kumamoto oyster has a creamier finish. I usually tell people to get a couple or three or four different kinds to try.

How many oysters could you eat in one sitting? I think the most I’ve ever eaten was four or five-dozen, and those were Gulf oysters at a little oyster bar in the Gulf. My uncle and I sat down and finished off about 12 dozen between the two of us. I grew up on the coast, fishing with my father off the coast of Connecticut and spending time in Maryland. That shows in our crab cakes, which are barely held together.

Is it true what they say about oysters being an aphrodisiac? I guess you’d have to ask my girlfriend. (laughs) I like to think that it’s healthy for me. I don’t think there are any ill effects.

What do you like to drink at the end of a busy night? With Nate Selsor, who came from Monarch, as our bar manager, a lot of the time I can just give him a flavor profile and let him play. We have a drink called When All Else Fails that’s really nice. It has rum, Campari, yellow Chartreuse and lemon juice. He just started a brand new drink menu that I’m working my way through now.

What are some of the preparations for oysters you do at the restaurant? In addition to raw, we do ours grilled and fried and occasionally beer-batter fried. We also do a Virgin Bluepoint [oyster] topped with a pancetta béchamel, and then we take kale blanched in pepper water and fried in duck fat and put that on top, followed by cave-aged Gruyere, and then we broil it. That’s our most popular menu item. We call it our house-stuffed oyster.

What’s your favorite drink to enjoy with oysters? Champagne. We have some exotic Champagnes, called grower Champagnes, made by one guy who may have just two acres of grapes and does it all himself. The flavor profiles are just fantastic.

Have you by any chance studied with a sushi chef? I have done a stage with a classically trained Japanese chef. He was the corporate chef at P.F. Chang’s. He was Vietnamese-born and Japanese-trained. Working with him was where I learned almost all of my Asian preparations.

Have you ever eaten the dangerous puffer fish, fugu? I have not, but I certainly would.

Anthony Bourdain once wrote that diners shouldn’t order seafood on Sunday, because the last seafood delivery was Friday – your thoughts? I think that’s completely untrue. I get seafood in on Saturdays. My fish that comes in for Sundays is perfectly stored in coolers and checked. Maybe in the ‘80s that might have been true, but with the abundance of seafood purveyors in St. Louis, they’ll deliver at 5 p.m. on Saturday. People shouldn’t have qualms about eating seafood on Sunday. As far as seafood in the Midwest goes, when you develop a long relationship with seafood purveyors, you get very nice stuff. We get seafood from nine different sources.

Have you shopped at the huge Asian market in U. City, Seafood City? I own a house not far from there. I shop there once a week. The seafood section is fascinating to me. If I’m in the mood for some mussels and feel like cooking them up, I might pick some up from there. I just enjoy walking the aisles and looking at stuff and having no idea what something is and buying it and playing with it.

What do you like to cook at home? If I’ve got two days off in a row, I’ll cook on the second day, but for the most part, I don’t really cook at home a lot. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is look at a pot and pan. I sometimes just go with a frozen pizza and a beer. Other chefs are the same way. We actually eat instant ramen noodles.

Where did you cook before DeMun Oyster Bar? I was a corporate chef for a few years, and before that, I was the fine dining chef at Ameristar Casino. I ran 47 Port Street and Pearl’s Oyster Bar.

Cooking at a casino is a whole different ball game, with the emphasis on extreme customer service. It was a great, great experience. At 47 Port Street, we had people that were big VIPs, so we had deep pockets to create exotic things and do tasting menus. While it was one of the most demanding jobs I ever had, it was fantastic to be able to play with all the stuff we got to bring in. On a Saturday night, you might have a table of four high rollers and you need to throw out an eight-course wine-pairing dinner on the fly for them. When the owner of the entire corporation came into town, there would be like a 22-hour stretch where you made absolutely sure that all his meals came out perfectly.

How does it feel when the kitchen is humming and everything is coming out perfectly? It’s absolutely fantastic. I have a great staff here. My sous chef, Nick Puccio, is really, really strong. We have great cooks that have worked in good restaurants. When things are really rolling, it’s probably the best feeling in the world. It’s exactly why I do this job.

Do you allow music in the kitchen? Only during prep time in the day.

What cooking or food book, TV show or movie do you love? I really don’t watch any of the food shows. I think they’re so unrealistic and fake. My favorite movie about wine is Bottle Shock.

What was your favorite food growing up that your parents made? Stuffed peppers. My parents were big gardeners and we had a huge garden. When the end of the summer would come, my stepmom would spend the entire day making tomato sauce and stuffing them, and they were amazing. Then she would freeze some and we would eat them all winter long, too. When I go home, that’s one of the things she always makes. My mother used to make spaghetti on Sundays and that was great, too.

What food did you hate as a kid that you love now? Clams. Ironic, isn’t it? We would have the freshest clams when I was a kid; we grew up about 12 miles from the ocean. They would make them in a white-wine Alfredo, and I would just eat the noodles. I never realized how much I took seafood for granted.

740 DeMun Ave., Clayton, 314.725.0322, demunoysterbar.com

— photo by Ashley Gieseking

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