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Feb 20, 2018
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Kelling’

Restaurant veterans Chris Kelling, Adam Altnether will open Elmwood in Maplewood

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

 

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{ the future home of Elmwood in Maplewood } 

Maplewood is poised to get another restaurant from two big names in the local culinary scene. Adam Altnether and Chris Kelling announced they’re partnering on a new eatery, Elmwood, set to debut at 2704 Sutton Ave., in the summer 2018.

“It’s going to be a modern American bistro with some global influences,” said Altnether, who most recently served as executive sous chef for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was also the former corporate executive chef for Gerard Craft’s Niche Food Group. “We definitely want to be approachable for everyone who might walk in the door, whether that’s grabbing a burger and beer at the bar after work or celebrating an anniversary.”

 

 

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{ Elmwood chef-owner Adam Altnether was most recently executive sous chef for the St. Louis Cardinals. }

 

Altnether said the kitchen will be centered around a roaring hearth, and the space will seat between 80 and 100. Construction is slated to begin in January, and will involve a gut rehab, according to Kelling, who recently left his post as general manager of Pastaria and Sardella.

Elmwood will start with dinner service, and Altnether said the possibility exists for weekend lunches and brunches. He said the name is a nod to the city’s early history – Elmwood was a final contender for the name of the city, but Maplewood won out.

Both Altnether and Kelling said Maplewood was on the top of their wish list for locations. “I only wanted to be in Maplewood,” said Kelling, who also lives in the neighborhood. “I love that strip of Sutton.”

The space at the busy intersection of Sutton Boulevard and Manchester Road most recently housed The Live Juke Joint, a dueling piano bar. Blind Tiger and Jumpin’ Jupiter also had runs in the corner building. “We love that building. It’s been at the top of our list since it’s been on the market,” Altnether said.

 

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{ Elmwood owner Chris Kelling (far right) spent much of his local career at Niche Food Group. }

 

Alnether and Kelling worked together extensively during their times at Niche Food Group. Altnether left the group in 2015, and both men said they felt it was time to open their own place.

“I’ve always had that itch,” Altnether said. “But I wasn’t willing to jump at the first opportunity. It was something that had to make sense and fit for everyone. I‘m ecstatic Chris came along, and I think we’ll be a pretty good match and make something great.”

“I’ve opened a lot of restaurants, 15-plus, and I just kind of wanted open one of my own,” Kelling said.

 

Editor’s Note: This post originally misstated the address for Elmwood. It was updated at 10 a.m. Dec. 13 with the correct address. 

Kelling photo by Greg Rannells 

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Adam Altnether parts ways with Niche Food Group

• Thai Table will open next year in Maplewood

• The Live Juke Joint Dueling Piano Bar to rock out Maplewood

Ones to Watch 2017: Jen Epley of Vicia

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

OTW_Jen_Blog_Jan17

 

Title: Assistant general manager, Vicia
Age: 31
Why watch her: She knows what you need before you do.

Jen Epley has her eye on you. Where did you sit, what did you order and what was your favorite dish? If you don’t like cilantro, you won’t see it – now or the next time you dine with her.

For Epley, successful service means everything appears effortless. Wine keys, pens, lighters and birthday candles are accounted for before the night begins. Guests are greeted warmly, treated with friendly respect and watched carefully from the moment they’re seated until the last glass of wine is consumed.

“You have to know something about them. They are there for that experience of connecting with the food, the servers, the beverages. They want to feel everything that you put into that restaurant,” Epley said. “You have to be part of it. … If you don’t love it, you shouldn’t be there because that resonates with all the guests that walk in.”

This is something she’s learned from hospitality pros in some of the best restaurants in the city, starting at Five Bistro five years ago.

“She’s really one of the unsung heroes of service in St. Louis,” said advanced sommelier Andrey Ivanov. He trained Epley on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern wine when they worked at Olio and Elaia. “She’s so technically sound that she can do everything better than most people on autopilot, and meanwhile … look around the room and anticipate what’s next.”

“So many people treat serving as ‘Same job, different apron,’” said Sardella general manager Chris Kelling, who worked with Epley at Niche. “She has goals to ascend in the industry and be amongst the best. That is something I’ve only recently seen in St. Louis, that people are taking hospitality as a career.”

It seems only natural that Epley’s next step is to help open Vicia under co-owner and general manager Tara Gallina, who was service captain at Blue Hill at Stone Barns – a restaurant lauded as much for service as culinary talent. Before a recent wine tasting meeting, Epley pulled out a tote bag filled with polished stemware and ever-present spiral-bound notebooks.

“When I write things down, it’s easier to remember than typing,” she explained, rifling through pages filled with impeccably written wine tasting notes and potential front-of-house hires. Epley loves the puzzle of it all, carefully sorting each detail into its proper column. “It’s a fun game of Tetris,” she said.

“She’s always two steps ahead, which is what you have to be, and seeing the big picture at all times,” Gallina said. “She really just gets it.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Best New Restaurants: No. 1 – Sardella

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened:St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

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{ from left, executive chef Nick Blue, chef-owner Gerard Craft and general manager Chris Kelling } 

 

You don’t close the restaurant that just won you a James Beard Award – unless you’re Gerard Craft. He closed Niche one year after winning Best Chef: Midwest. St. Louis expects new concepts from Craft, but it was another thing entirely to eliminate his first restaurant and the namesake of Niche Food Group to try something new. Sardella had a lot to live up to.

So what kind of place is Sardella? “That’s the toughest question,” Craft said. “I think it’s our restaurant … [We’re] getting to have fun, getting to cook the food we want to cook.” It’s a place of freedom – even improvisation – for a team nationally famous for precision and adherence to Niche’s restrictive Missouri-only sourcing.

Sardella’s concept is more suggestion than mandate: food shaped by Italy, rather than Italian food. That may seem like semantics, but the freedom is in the phrasing. “It’s a slight direction,” Craft said. “Sardella is influenced by Italy, but it’s not straight Italian. Honestly, it would confuse many Italians. My greatest example is the green bean dish. It’s green beans on garam and roasted garlic custard with crispy garlic and Calabrian chile vinaigrette. It’s a dish that’s so Italian ingredient-wise, and so un-Italian any other way. When you eat it, it feels Southeast Asian.”

Italian, Southeast Asian, Missourian – one bite of this shockingly rich and savory vegetable small plate and you won’t care how it got here. Green beans (or the charred squash version now on the menu) never tasted so good. Same goes for the thinly sliced bavette steak: We don’t care why it’s topped with miso butter, we’re just glad that it is. Or the marinated sunchoke with a tender, acidic base joined by rich prosciutto and a kick of jalapeno – don’t ask questions, just eat. In this dance of Italian plates moving to various Asian, African or Mexican beats, diners have as much fun as the kitchen.

 

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{ miso-ricotta ravioli with orange, pepitas, brown butter and tarragon }

 

“At Niche, we were the special occasion restaurant, the nicest restaurant in town,” said general manager Chris Kelling. “But here, we just want to be the most fun.”

Even on a Monday night, the energy is high. The music is louder, the drinks better, the clientele hipper. It’s too lively to feel formal. It feels cool.

Talk to any Niche veteran on Sardella’s team, and you can see that relief, like loosening one’s tie at the end of a long day (literally – servers now wear black jeans and chambray shirts). The whole space has undergone a parallel stylish, casual makeover. The long wood bar is flanked by bookshelves. Servers weave between closer, smaller tables. The once cavernous ceiling was lowered over a wall-length butter-soft leather banquette. There are hanging plants, sardine tins and a general sense of lightness: blond wood, white walls, smiling faces.

With Craft, executive chef Nick Blue and executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn in the kitchen we expected the food to impress, but it’s the atmosphere, the posture of Sardella that’s most striking. This is a restaurant full of people doing what they love in the way they want to do it.

“It sounds cliche, but I get to throw a party seven nights a week,” Kelling said. “I enjoy doing it. I feel that energy transfers to the team, to the guest, and it’s all reciprocal.”

We feel it, too. The intimidation of fine-dining service (that sense of attempting a dance to which many don’t know the steps) is gone from Sardella, with no great loss. But anyone who’s ever hosted knows how hard it is to make a party look this effortless.

“We don’t have rules for rules’ sake, because then it stops being a service,” Kelling said. “Everything is about the flow for the guest. It’s got to be smooth and have precision. … If we just create a platform for the guest to enjoy themselves, then we do a good job.”

This is what Sardella is about: a good time. Craft has been around long enough to know that when the kitchen isn’t having fun, no one is. “That’s Gerard’s strength: He cares. He listens to feedback,” Kelling said. “If you don’t care – if you’re not listening – then the emperor has no clothes.”

We’re happy to report Craft is resplendently dressed at Sardella. We went to Niche when we wanted to feel fancy. We go to Sardella when we want to have fun – as often as we can.

 

More about Sardella

• Sneak Peek: Sardella in Clayton

• What I Do: Nick Blue of Sardella

• The Scoop: Gerard Craft to close Niche, Sardella to open

Readers Choice 2015: Chef of the Year – Gerard Craft

The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award

Photo by Greg Rannells

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