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Posts Tagged ‘Carl McConnell’

The Scoop: 5 STL-area chefs, The Side Project Cellar, Stone Soup Cottage all earn JBFA nods

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016



{Mike Randolph}


The James Beard Foundation announced its 2016 restaurant and chef award semifinalists today, Feb. 17. Once again, St. Louis is well represented among this year’s picks for the esteemed culinary awards.

Among the national categories, chef-owner Mike Randolph’s Público was named a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. This category recognizes a restaurant that “already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.”

“It means the world,” Randolph said. “I’ve had the concept in my head for years. From the day we opened we knew exactly what we were and haven’t deviated from it. Our vision has been well received and people are excited about it. To be judged by people you really care about is pretty cool.”

Along with three other St. Louis-area chefs, Randolph was also named a semifinalist in the Best Chef: Midwest category. This is the first time Randolph was recognized by the James Beard Foundation.

“It’s humbling for sure, but I’m on the shoulders of the people I’ve had a chance to work with,” Randolph said. “It’s a testament to the crew.”

Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. chef-owner Kevin Nashan, Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann, and Elaia and Olio chef-owner Ben Poremba were also named semifinalists for Best Chef: Midwest. All three have previously made this prestigious shortlist.

Nashan said he feels honored that he and his team have been acknowledged once again. “I’m always grateful to be on the bus. We work hard. Not necessarily for this, but it feels great and it’s great for the team and great for this town. Hooray for St. Louis.”

“It’s a very big honor,” Poremba said. “It’s reaffirmation that my team and I are doing something right and on the right path.”

Poremba went on to comment on other area nominees. “It’s nice to see new inclusions to the list. There are people who are a big force in this town and contribute a lot to the scene, new semi-finalists and veterans. I’m stoked for Stone Soup Cottage and for Público. (Best New Restaurant) is a hard one to get.”

Willmann likewise said the JBFA nod was an honor and validation for his Farmhaus team.  “It’s always special to have our little mom-and pop restaurant recognized,” Willmann said. “We talk about being perfect and even though we can’t be perfect, we don’t take anything for granted. If something’s not right, we don’t sell it. It’s about doing our best every day.”

Across the river, chef and co-owner Ed Heath was named a semifinalist for Best Chef: Great Lakes for the second time in two years. “It’s super unreal,” he said. “I was 100-percent certain that it wasn’t gonna happen again. This morning, I didn’t even look.”




{The Side Project Cellar team. From left, Katie Herrera, Shae Smith, Chris Hoertel and co-owner Karen King}


Also in the national categories, The Side Project Cellar in Maplewood was named a semifinalist in the Outstanding Bar Program category, which honors restaurants or bars that demonstrate excellence in cocktail, spirits and/or beer service. Side Project co-owner Karen King learned of the nomination when Sauce called for comment.

“Every year those come out and it’s always the best chefs in the freaking in world,” King said. “So we’re excited, I know that!”

Co-owner Cory King said he was thrilled to hear that Karen King’s hard work at The Cellar has been recognized. “It’s really mostly her,” he said. “She’s the one who operates this thing day-to-day.”




{Carl and Nancy McConnell}


St. Louis-area service was also recognized at Cottleville’s Stone Soup Cottage, named a semifinalist for Outstanding Service as a restaurant open “five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service.”

Co-owner Nancy McConnell said she and co-owner and chef Carl McConnell were shocked at the news. “We are on Cloud 9,” she said, stressing the importance of having their entire team recognized for their service efforts. “We are so humbled and just numb.”

This is the first James Beard Foundation Award nods for The Side Project Cellar and Stone Soup Cottage.

Finalists will be announced March 15; the James Beard Foundation Awards take place May 2 in Chicago.  A full list of semifinalists is available here.

Catherine Klene and Kristin Schultz contributed to this report. 

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 12:15 p.m. Feb. 17 to include comment from Kevin Willmann. 

-Mike Randolph photo by Greg Rannells, all other photos by Carmen Troesser


Extra Sauce: Carl McConnell’s Creme Brulee with Strawberries

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

“Creme brulee is my favorite thing to eat,” remarked Carl McConnell, chef-proprietor of Stone Soup Cottage. “It goes back to my childhood.” McConnell first tasted creme brulee when he was 7 or 8 years old and his mother took him to dine at The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. “I ordered a creme brulee for dessert and have been in love with it ever since.”

Creme Brulee with Strawberries
Courtesy of Stone Soup Cottage’s Carl McConnell
4 servings

5 egg yolks
1 egg
¾ cup sugar, plus ¼ cup for dusting
Pinch salt
¼ tsp. vanilla
1 pint heavy cream, heated
8 fresh strawberries, stemmed and halved
Drizzle of lavender honey

• Whisk the egg yolks, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla together in a stainless steel bowl. Temper eggs with one ounce hot cream (add cream to the eggs, whisking vigorously). Add remaining cream and stir well.
• Skim the accumulated foam off the top of the custard with a spoon. Evenly distribute the custard base to 4 to 6 ounce ramekins. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with very hot water, to a level half way up the side of the ramekins. Place in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until the custards are firm. Refrigerate custards for at least 3 hours.
• Dust the tops of the chilled custards with sugar. Shake off excess sugar. Using a creme brulee torch, flambe the sugared tops until caramelized.
• In a bowl, toss strawberries with lavender honey. Serve the berries with the creme brulee.

Read more on McConnell, Stone Soup Cottage and his business partner and wife, Nancy McConnell, in this month’s What I Do.


What I Do: Carl and Nancy McConnell of Stone Soup Cottage

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014



Is it possible to run a restaurant and have a balanced family life? “Absolutely,” said Carl and Nancy McConnell in unison. Here, the husband-and-wife proprietors of 5-year-old Stone Soup Cottage – and parents of two sons, ages 13 and 10 – share their recipe for success.

Stone Soup Cottage is only open three nights a week. Dinner is by reservation only. There is one seating of 40 guests. The menu is a six-course prix fixe with no a la carte options. Why has this business model worked?
Nancy: We’ve stayed true to the fact that we are not for everyone. We are not in it to feed the masses. We just need to have 40, and that’s OK with us.
Carl: We communicate clearly and honestly with prospective clients about exactly what we are and who we are. We don’t mind telling people we might not be for them.
N: On paper, it should have failed. What happened? Word of mouth. That’s what has made the success of our business – and an extremely loyal clientele.

Carl worked for 10 years as a chef on a cruise ship, and Nancy was an international travel director. How does your background in the hospitality and travel industry help you?
N: Whereas he was on the ships, I was on the high-end luxury travel side. I would escort guests on trips like the around-the-world Concorde. The service had to be impeccable. When Carl and I met on the icebreaker ship where we fell in love, we talked about if we were going to do something down the road, it would be an extension of what we did with our travels and hospitality on a very small, personal level.

What is the hardest part of operating a destination restaurant?
N: The expectations of the guest. We are so unique in what we’re doing. For guests who’ve never been here before, (who) may have heard or read something, it’s trying to meet their expectations.

Your New Year’s Eve extravaganzas have always surpassed expectations. What are your plans this year?
N: We’re doing an early seating. Eight courses. At 9:30 p.m., we’re done. Our kids are going to come up for the first time, and we’re going to toast our family. I think that’s going to be the tradition from now on.

In what ways has your family benefited from the restaurant’s hours?
N: We are able to make our schedule for the restaurant to not miss out on any major milestones for our children. We’ve always closed for Halloween. Any of their birthdays, we close. Band, concerts – anything important to them.

Do they help at the restaurant?
N: Our youngest, Colin, loves the creativity with Carl. … Christian is –
C: Terrified of it. … Printing menus, being out here with Nancy, polishing glasses. He’s cool with that.

Will you extend your hours when your sons get older?
N: Yes. We have guests ask us all the time, “When are you going to bring brunch back?” We’ve said from day one, when our kids don’t want to be with us anymore or don’t need us or they have their own jobs, the business will take its twists and turns. But as long as they need us … that is our main job.

What restaurant decisions do you make together?
N: Almost everything. But we are normal. We fight. We disagree. We have to compromise, and we’re two completely different people.
C: I’m the dreamer. Nancy is the realist. She makes it happen.

Even though you manage the front of the house, do you ever feel like a restaurant widow?
N: I am like a restaurant widow.
C: When I’m working back there, I tune everything out. I’m in the zone and unaware of anybody that’s around me. That can be hard, I imagine.

Do you ever sneak into the kitchen and give him a quick peck?
N: Absolutely. Many people have caught us giving (each other) a little smooch.
C: I love her! She’s everything to me.
N: If we’re having a crazy night, just a loving hand on the shoulder, or us looking at each other saying, “We can get through this” – that connection gets us both through.
C: But then there are nights when she wants to kill me …


Want to bring a little Stone Soup Cottage into your kitchen? Get the recipe for chef’s classic Creme Brulee with Strawberries on Extra Sauce.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

The List: Stone Soup Cottage

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Welcome to The List, our annual homage to the people, places, dishes and drinks we love in St. Louis. Don’t miss a single pick; click here to read the whole List and share your thoughts on Twitter with #thesaucelist.



If your urbane coastal friends think St. Louis is a cow town surrounded by fields, embrace their misconception with an evening at Stone Soup Cottage. Located in the footprint of a 1929 barn, this elegant, fine-dining restaurant, which was built with much of the original barn’s wood, really is surrounded by farmland. It provides chef Carl McConnell and his wife, Nancy, almost all of the produce for their seasonal six-course, prix fixe dinners. Stone Soup is farm-to-table cuisine at its most literal and just a 45-minute car ride from downtown.

5809 Highway N, Cottleville, 636.244.2233, stonesoupcottage.com

-photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: Stone Soup Cottage relocating

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Chef Carl McConnell and his wife Nancy are planning to relocate their restaurant Stone Soup Cottage; however, the restaurant won’t be moving far from its current address at 5525 Oak St., in Cottleville, Mo.

As reported by St. Louis Magazine’s George Mahe, the McConnells have purchased a 6.5-acre parcel from the Wiese family that owns the adjacent 40-acre farm that supplies the restaurant with produce.

In a phone conversation with Carl McConnell, The Scoop learned that construction on the new Stone Soup Cottage has already begun and is slated to be completed by the fall.

In regards to the decision to move, McConnell said, “Nancy and I felt constricted in the current digs we are in right now. Though it is a wonderful 1850’s building, we are limited in where the can expand our restaurant brand.” McConnell illustrated his point by adding, “Currently, I am unable to hold any additional kinds of functions. In the new building, we will address that by having a satellite room where we can host private events.”

Currently on the site of the new restaurant, there is a barn that was built in the 1931. Because the barn is no longer structurally sound, McConnell explained, “I’m tearing it down and rebuilding in its footprint, reusing the old lumber from the barn in the new building.”

The McConnells are also preparing for another move. Carl’s parents are relocating from Michigan to Cottleville, and his father will become the restaurant’s official gardener. In addition to the two greenhouses and three hoop houses the McConnells currently use, they plan to have chickens on the property as well. “We want to approach this in an even truer farm to fork style here,” he said.

— photo courtesy of Stone Soup Cottage

The Scoop: Stone Soup Cottage To Go Veg

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Vegetarians craving more fine-dining options will be pleased to hear that Nancy and Carl McConnell have decided to add a meat-free menu to their tasting-menu-only restaurant, Stone Soup Cottage. After the first of the year, the McConnells will feature an all-vegetarian six-course menu every Wednesday night. “I love to cook vegetarian cuisine,” Carl McConnell said, “and I feel like there’s a real demand for it.” The procedure for Wednesday nights will be the same as on other nights at the Cottleville restaurant: one menu, one seating per night, reservations required.

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