Hello Stranger | Login | Create Account
 
 
 
 
 
  SAUCE MAGAZINE
|
Feb 08, 2016
|
Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
|
SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
Email | Text-size: A | A | A

Posts Tagged ‘Gerard Craft’

Sneak Peek: Porano Pasta on Washington Avenue

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Porano_13

 

After nearly a year of anticipation, chef-owner Gerard Craft will open Porano Pasta, his new fast-casual concept, Tuesday, Jan. 26. As The Scoop reported last February, this is the James Beard Award winner’s fifth restaurant, and it is located in a massive two-story space at 634 Washington Ave., downtown in the Mercantile Exchange. Executive chef Michael Petres, former executive chef at Pastaria, will oversee day-to-day operations.

Customers will step up to the counter and build their own bowls from a selection of bases, sauces, proteins or vegetables and toppings. They can start with house-made organic semolina pasta, organic farro, romaine and kale lettuce or Italian rice, then add one of 11 house-made sauces including everything from a classic pomodoro to pumpkin seed and lime pesto.

Porano features hormone- and antibiotic-free meat such as slow-roasted pork, beef meatballs and grilled chicken. Veg-friendly offerings like spicy tofu or seasonable vegetables (currently butternut squash or Brussels sprouts) are also available. In additional to bowls, Craft and Petres have created a daily focaccia dish using Companion bread and Panzos, fried dough pockets stuffed with rotating fillings.

The large beverage menu includes a frozen Negroni and a nonalcoholic strawberry-lime slush inspired by Italian granitas. White and red house Scarpetta wines on tap are available, as well as bottled and canned brews, a house draft beer brewed by The Civil Life and several Excel sodas.

In addition to quick, custom meals, Craft said he wants to focus on how he can source locally and responsibly as a fast-casual concept. “We want to rework the way the fast-food industry thinks about the supply chain,” Craft said. To that end, Porano recently purchased whole hogs to break down in-house and use for its porchetta, Sunday sugo sauce and specials. Craft aims to source from many of his current vendors that supply other Niche Food Group restaurants, including Todd Geisert Farms, Newman Farms, Double Star Farm and Berger Bluff farms.

Porano will be open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., though it will operate on limited hours to start. Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect when doors open Tuesday at Porano Pasta:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

-photos by Michelle Volansky 

Ones to Watch 2016: Ashley Shelton

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

122815_otw_Ashley

 

Title: Executive chef, Pastaria
Age: 26
Why Watch Her: Dreams and dreamy pasta – Shelton makes it all happen.

On a busy Saturday night, Ashley Shelton and her crew can serve up to 500 people in one shift. Instead of barking commands at her cooks, Shelton motivates them in her own way. “When it gets hard, I start singing. The dishes have their own songs,” she said. “And I hand out candy and Kool-Aid. I like to run a fun line.”

Shelton credited her mother, who passed away when she was only 14, for instilling a love of cooking. Three years later, as a high school junior aiming toward culinary school, Shelton landed a job on the line at the venerable Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield. “That’s where I learned speed, discipline and how to clean a kitchen. … I learned from the best,” Shelton said.

Laser focus then propelled her to The Culinary Institute of America, where she first made bucatini all’a amatriciana, the traditional Italian entree that would become her calling. “That dish was so good, it made me want to study Italian food,” Shelton said. And so she did, moving to Florence to earn a Masters in Italian Cuisine from the Apicius International Hospitality Institute.

Shelton first met chef Gerard Craft in Italy, while he was on a research trip before opening Pastaria. “He interviewed me over dinner, and it was an awful meal. We joke about it now,” Shelton said, laughing. Craft hired her as Pastaria’s line cook before the restaurant even opened its doors, and then, in February last year, offered her the executive chef position.

Craft is proud and supportive of Shelton. “Ashley is a rare breed. She is able to lead a massive kitchen with a smile, a sense of humor and with a confidence usually found in much older chefs,” he said. “Ashley is quite simply the best, and I am guessing that this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

We agree. With her can-do attitude and passion for Italian cuisine, songs will be sung about Shelton – and her bucatini – for years to come.

 

This Friday on Sound Bites, The Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.​ chef Jessie Gilroy, a member of the Ones to Watch class of 2015, and Pastaria chef Ashley Shelton join Sauce to discuss their leadership roles in some of St. Louis’ most prestigious kitchens. Tune in to St. Louis Public RadioFriday, Jan 8. at noon and 10 p.m. for Sound Bites on Cityscape.

– photo by Carmen Troesser

 

Cooking the Classics: Mashed Potatoes

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

111615_classics1

 

Nothing says love like a big bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy. Every family has its favorite rendition of this classic dish, and even the pros disagree about some things. Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. and Sidney Street Cafe, prefers a rough mash of partially peeled, small red potatoes or fingerlings. Gerard Craft, chef-owner of Niche Food Group, goes for a smooth puree of russet potatoes. Nashan seasons his water; Craft doesn’t. But lumpy or whipped, fingerlings or russets, milk or cream, there are some things all good mashers can agree upon. Here, 6 steps to the perfect mash.

1. Cut about 3 pounds potatoes (such as russet, fingerling or small red potatoes) into equal 1½ – to 2-inch cubes.

2. Place those spuds in a very large pot of cold water and give them room to dance with 1 inch of water above them. Set the pot over medium-high heat.

3. Put a fork in it. Three pounds of potatoes cooked over medium-high take about 30 to 35 minutes. When a fork goes in easily or breaks the potato, drain immediately. If the potatoes fight back, continue to cook, checking every 5 minutes. Pay attention: Overcooked potatoes make a soupy mash.

4. Burn calories while you mash. The paddle attachment on a stand mixer works, but it is easy to go from perfection to glue when using appliances. Keep it old-school with a wire masher and leave some lumps, if you’re into that. If you like a silky-smooth texture, use a potato ricer.

5. Use about 1 stick melted butter and ½ cup milk, half-and-half or cream for every 3 pounds potatoes. Always warm the butter and liquid before adding them.

6. Don’t be bland. Add salt and white pepper to taste – start with 1 teaspoon salt and a couple grinds of pepper and go from there. Other additions may include roasted garlic, creme fraiche or sour cream and, of course, cheese. Try mascarpone, goat cheese, cheddar or Parmesan. You can also add a little chicken or beef stock diluted in warm milk.

Pro tip: Making your potatoes ahead of time? Hold them up to 4 hours in a slow cooker on low. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter and ¼ cup warm milk into the slow cooker insert before adding the mashed potatoes, then cover. Stir well before serving.

-photo by Greg Rannells

The Scoop: Gerard Craft to open second Pastaria in Nashville

Friday, November 6th, 2015

110615_pastaria

 

Niche Food Group chef-owner Gerard Craft announced today, Nov. 6, that he will open a second location of his Italian eatery Pastaria in Nashville in summer 2016. This will be Craft’s sixth restaurant and his first outside of the St. Louis area.

Craft said he has been looking for the right expansion opportunity for two years. “Our company is growing, and it’s been ready to expand, but we want to make sure we’re taking the right steps and growing with the right people,” he said. “We’re been spending a little more time (in Nashville) … and (the west end) seems like an area that had a lot of potential.”

Craft is dispatching St. Louis talent to helm the Nashville kitchen; Josh Poletti will take on the role of executive chef. Poletti was a member of the Sauce Ones to Watch class of 2014 and joined the Niche Food Group team earlier this year.

The Nashville location at 8 C1TY Blvd., will feature a similar menu of house-made fresh pastas, sauces and wood-fired pizzas as the Clayton location. Grab-and-go options like jarred sauce, gelato and dried pasta will also be available.

At home in The Lou, the James Beard Award-winning chef is putting the finishing touches on Porano, his fast-casual Italian concept set to open downtown at 634 Washington Ave. Craft said he hopes to host a soft open for that restaurant in late November or early December.

 

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

 

Better Than Nonna’s: Chef secrets for the perfect plate of pasta

Friday, September 25th, 2015

090115_pasta3

 

{Spaghetti with Heirloom Cherry Tomato, Shrimp and Arugula} 

 

A beautiful plate of pasta is nothing short of enchanting – rich aromas, nuanced flavors and the painstaking presentation of the professional chef. It’s easy to boil a pot of noodles, but turning strands of wet spaghetti into a Michelin-starred dish can be a tall order for the home cook. Here, area chefs share their better-than-Nonna’s recipes and secrets for everything you need (Pro tip No. 1: Start with fresh pasta.) to take your pasta from basic to bellissima. Get the recipes for:

 

-photo by Greg Rannells

The Scoop: Michael David Murphy named beverage director at Bar Italia

Friday, August 28th, 2015

082815_baritalia

 

On the heels of Brandon Kerne’s departure, Bar Italia has found a replacement for its now-vacant beverage directorship: Michael David Murphy, who oversaw the beverage program at Gerard Craft’s empire of restaurants, will fill Kerne’s shoes beginning this week.

“This is a really exciting opportunity,” Murphy said, citing the more than 600 bottles now amassed in Bar Italia’s wine library. “The cellar runs deep. There’s not many places in St. Louis that you can go to have wine that is correctly aged and served in its prime for $60 to $70.”

Since April 2014, Murphy worked for Robust Wine Bar, following stints as wine director and, later, beverage director for the Craft Restaurant Group from 2010 to 2011 and 2012 to 2013. In between, he was a wine manager for a distributor in Kansas City. Under Murphy’s watch, Craft’s Niche earned a spot among Wine Enthusiast’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants in 2013. He will continue to flex his sommelier muscles in his position at Bar Italia.

“This really is, from a sommelier’s perspective, a dream. Brandon did a phenomenal job elevating this into a prestigious program,” Murphy said. He plans to broaden the regional representation of the wine list and continue to evolve the 30-year-old restaurant’s monthly wine dinner program. Yet for the most part, he said, he just wants to keep an already flourishing program going strong.

Mengesha Yohannes, co-owner of Bar Italia, said Murphy’s laidback approach to beverage service differs from Kerne’s, but is no less apt. “He’s very quiet, but there’s a lot of substance,” Yohannes said. “Every time I have a chat with him, I’m always surprised, the hidden passions boiling under the surface. He’s very, very engaging and has a deep passion that comes out in surprising ways. More of a Zen master approach.”

Kerne, who worked with Murphy for several months before his departure to facilitate the transition, was equally enthusiastic. “I cannot recommend (Michael) enough as a professional,” Kerne said. “He is undoubtedly one of the top talents in the city.”

 

 

 

 

Readers’ Choice 2015: Chef of the Year – Gerard Craft

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

070115_bestchef

 

You know a meal is special when you can recall it in vivid detail years, even decades, later. Epicures have traveled from far and near to visit Gerard Craft’s flagship restaurant, Niche, and have departed with memories of exquisitely plated, creative dishes. Craft’s own dining experiences likewise have left an indelible mark on his culinary mind. Here, this year’s Readers’ Choice Chef of the Year – and winner of the 2015 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Midwest – shares the top meals of his life.  

1. The French Laundry, Yountville, California, 2002
“That meal was mind-blowing on every level, especially because I had experienced a lot at that point but nothing unique. I’d been sleeping with The French Laundry Cookbook pretty much at that point. It was a big deal to see it all. The wine service was Bobby Stuckey (now co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado) as a youngster. My dad still talks about the wine service to this day and how amazingly inspired it was. (We started) with five different soups, each one the essence of whatever that ingredient was. (I had) dishes that are now iconic, like the salmon cornet – the ice cream cone, the oysters and pearls … just mind-blowing and fun. Grant Achatz was a sous chef. It was kind of like a dream team in that restaurant.”

2. Le Bamboche, Paris, France, 2000
“It was during the mad cow crisis. Lots of vegetables because nobody was cooking meat at that point. La Bamboche was a tiny little spot, maybe 20 seats. The chef was Claude Colliot. It was him in the kitchen with one other guy and his wife ran the front of the house. It was the first time I saw traditional rules broken. There was a dish of glazed Loire Valley vegetables with fromage blanc ice cream, a savory ice cream. I was blown away. Now, everyone sees ice cream on dishes. Back then, no one had ice cream on dishes. On the dessert side, he had a Napoleon with pastry cream on one layer, a kind of candied confit tomato on another layer and then basil simple syrup. Again, this notion of the rules had been broken: savory food being used in dessert. That meal alone shaped my career and the way I would look at food from then on.”

3. L’Arpège, Paris, France, 2000
“This place was – and still is – a three-star Michelin restaurant. My parents took me there and said, ‘Pay attention. This is your Harvard education.’ It was a spectacular meal, tons of vegetables. I don’t know if I was necessarily blown out of the water. It was just vegetables and light flavors and very good. What I did notice later on as I was cooking was: This green bean is not cooked right; this turnip’s texture could be much better. Every vegetable in that place was so perfectly cooked. When it comes to vegetables, that completely changed my life. I am so picky with our cooks about how they cook vegetables. That stems from this restaurant.”

4. Trattoria del Conte, Orvieto, Italy, 2006
“Our very good friends, Margaret and Carlo Pfeiffer, took me to this place. It was their favorite local restaurant to eat dinner. It’s pretty much a father and his daughters who run this place. They make really casual pastas, all fresh, hand-made. One of my favorite dishes that I still love to make is a ricotta tortelloni with artichokes, lemon and olive oil – an incredibly simple dish, but perfect. The whole thing, the ragus they do, everything made me fall in love with Italian food. That wasn’t my first trip to Italy, but it was a transformative trip for me.”

-illustrations by Vidhya Nagarajan

The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award

Monday, May 4th, 2015

033115_gerard

 

Rejoice, St. Louis! Gerard Craft has landed his first James Beard Foundation award. Craft was named Best Chef: Midwest today at a gala ceremony in Chicago. This marks the first time a St. Louis chef has landed a James Beard award, the culinary world’s preeminent honor. Craft is the chef-owner of Niche, Pastaria, Taste and Brasserie, and a six-time finalist for a Beard award.

The Best Chef category recognizes chefs who have “set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions,” according to the Foundation’s website. Candidates may be from any type of dining establishment and must have worked as a chef for at least five years, with the three most recent years in their region. The Midwest includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Vying with Craft for the title in that category were: Paul Berglund of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis; Justin Carlisle of Ardent in Milwaukee; Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart in Minneapolis; and Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Scoop: Adam Altnether parts ways with Niche Food Group

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

032715_adamaltnether

{Adam Altnether}

 

Adam Altnether has left the Niche family of restaurants. According to majority owner chef Gerard Craft, Altnether is no longer a shareholder in the restaurant group, which includes Niche, Taste, Brasserie, Pastaria and soon-to-open Porano. He sold his minority shares in the restaurants back to Craft at the end of March, positing Craft as the majority owner of the company.

“Adam has been a part of the team for over seven years, and we are proud of the work that we were able to accomplish together within that time,” Craft said. “We’re excited to see what’s next for him.”

Altnether’s departure brings to an end nearly decade-long tenure with Craft. Altnether began working at Niche in 2007. This member of the Sauce Ones to Watch class of 2009 quickly rose through the ranks at Niche and became Craft’s business partner in late 2010.

Altnether said after nearly eight years working with Craft, the two saw the elements of the restaurant group going in different directions. “I’m super lucky to have done what I did with Gerard, and I’m very grateful for everything we were able to accomplish … but sometimes it’s time to break out and start something new,” he said.

Though he’s not yet certain what that something is, Altnether said he plans to stay active in the St. Louis food scene and that his time in Craft’s kitchens and as his business partner has prepared him for almost anything. “We’ve almost seen it all,” he said. “You get to see a lot of interesting things, and it makes a lot of fun and unforgettable memories.”

Craft said Pastaria executive chef Michael Petres will take on the role of corporate executive chef, focusing on kitchen operations at Pastaria and Porano, his fast-casual pasta concept slated to open downtown this summer. Pastaria chef de cuisine Ashley Shelton will transition into the exec chef role at that restaurant.

 

033115_gerard

{Gerard Craft}

The top toques at Craft’s other restaurants remain the same: Nate Hereford helming Niche, Nick Blue heading the brigade at Brasserie and Heather Stone commanding at Taste. Stone assumed that position in January upon the departure of Matt Daughaday, whose first venture into chef-ownership will begin in a matter of months when his Reeds American Kitchen opens.

The news of Altnether’s leaving comes with the announcement that Niche is seeing changes at the front of the house. Christopher Kelling was hired as general manager. Kelling, former GM at Niche, will begin walking the floor at the Clayton fine dining restaurant, while current GM Matt McGuire has been named director of service for Niche Food Group. Kelling left Niche for his most recent position as dining room manager at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley, California.

 

Editor’s note: This post was updated March 31 at 11:30 a.m. to include comments from Adam Altnether. Also, the original post stated that Gerard Craft is the sole owner of Niche Food Group.

Catherine Klene contributed to this report.

The Scoop: Gerard Craft named JBFA finalist for Best Chef: Midwest

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

050214_gerard

 

Finalists for the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced today, March 24, and one St. Louis-area chef remains in the running. Gerard Craft, chef-owner of the Niche family of restaurants, made the short list in the Best Chef: Midwest category. Craft was also among last year’s finalists in that category. “I think it’s a great testament to our team, that 10 years in, we are still part of the conversation,” Craft said. “To be included with that group of people is such an honor.”

St. Louis chefs who did not get past the semifinal round in the Best Chef: Midwest category are Kevin Willmann, chef-owner of Farmhaus; Ben Poremba, chef-owner of Elaia, Olio and Old Standard Fried Chicken; and Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker. Ed Heath, chef and co-owner of Cleveland-Heath, was also in contention for the title of Best Chef: Great Lakes. Heath was a first-time JBFA semifinalist.

Among national awards, Annie Gunn’s was one of 20 restaurants named semifinalists in the Outstanding Wine Program category. The estimable fine-dining institution did not advance to the final round.

Winners of the chef and restaurant awards will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago May 4. A full list of nominees is available here.

 

Editor’s Note: This post was updated March 24 at 10:15 a.m. to include a quote from Gerard Craft.

RSS FEEDS
Keep up with one or all of your favorite Sauce Magazine columns
Conceived and created by Bent Mind Creative Group, LLC 1999-2016, Bent Mind Creative Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Sauce Magazine 1820 Chouteau Ave. St. Louis, Missouri 63103.
PH: 314-772-8004 FAX: 314-241-8004