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Oct 22, 2014
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Gerard Craft’

Raise your voice: Nominations open for James Beard Awards

Friday, October 17th, 2014

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Calling all opinionated St. Louis foodies! The prestigious James Beard Foundation has put out a call to the public, requesting nominations for its annual awards. Here’s your chance to call out your favorite chef and restaurant. Click here to register and nominate. Don’t delay – submit your culinary nods before Dec. 31, 2014.

St. Louis is no stranger to the James Beard Foundation. In fact at this very moment, St. Louis is heating up the kitchens at the James Beard House in New York City. The Libertine executive chef and co-owner Josh Galliano cooks there tonight, Oct. 17. Though you can’t grab a seat at that esteemed table tonight, you can pull up a seat at The Libertine bar starting at 5 p.m. for a special happy hour where guests can watch Galliano in action on a live-stream from the James Beard kitchens.

St. Louis made waves on the JBFA stage earlier this year, too. Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe and the newly opened Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., and Gerard Craft, chef-owner of Niche Food Group (including Niche, Pastaria, Taste and Brasserie) were both finalists in the Best Chef: Midwest category.

 

 

 

The Scoop: Niche Food Group taps Chicago sommelier Aaron Sherman to head its beverage programs

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

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Gerard Craft, owner of Niche Food Group and five-time James Beard award nominee, has enlisted new talent to direct the bar and wine programs at his four St. Louis restaurants. The Niche Food Group announced that Chicago sommelier Aaron Sherman has joined its team as beverage director for Niche, Taste by Niche, Pastaria and Brasserie by Niche. Sherman previously held positions as the sommelier at Stephanie Izard’s acclaimed Girl & The Goat, and wine steward at the former Avenues at The Peninsula Chicago, where he served as right hand to wine director Michael Muser.

“He’s just a super sharp guy,” Craft said. “That’s the first and foremost is that he’s an amazing human being. Very smart, very well spoken, definitely understands hospitality.” Craft said he met Sherman by happenstance at Pastaria earlier this year, where the sommelier and his wife were dining. After discovering they had mutual industry connections, Craft quickly created a position for the Sherman. “If somebody great crosses our path, we’re going to try and make room,” he said.

Coincidentally, Sherman was already in process of relocating to St. Louis. His wife Jelena Dirks, a classical musician, had recently accepted a position with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

The serendipitous timing was a boon to Matt McGuire, director of service for Niche Food Group, who has been juggling the management of all four restaurants’ beverage programs. “We’re really excited,” he said. “The timing of him coming to St. Louis and our need … I feel very fortunate to have him.”

Sherman took the helm of the Niche Food Group’s wine lists last week, and he aims to begin new scheduling for its varied beverage programs. The wine, beer and cocktail lists will be tailored to further reflect and complement the restaurants’ food menus, though Sherman was quick to stress that established programs, such as the cocktail menu at Taste, won’t be changed significantly.

“My goal is to make sure the whole package is at the right level of consistency,” Sherman said. “I don’t need to be cowboy: walk in, guns blazing and change the world. There’s nothing broken with the programs as they are. But when you start looking at the fine details you ask: What is good? What can be made better?”

Such improvements will largely be made to the wine lists, Sherman said, adding that he’s made an effort to acclimate himself before making any substantial modifications. “I have to flirt with the city a bit,” he said. “I have to get to know the people who are here. I don’t ever want them to walk in and have them say, ‘Oh, this is a Chicago list, just in St. Louis.’ ”

Though Sherman also began his career as a classical musician, he quickly pivoted to the food service industry and enjoyed a meteoric rise to sommelier positions in Chicago’s top restaurants.

“I had some incredible mentors, people who really helped me gain a great foundation,” he said. “Part of what I think I bring is a history of leading and guiding and education. I came to the restaurant industry sideways. (But) I understand how to communicate and talk about wine in a language people understand. When I’m on the floor, I don’t usually talk about the soil structure. I talk about cars and movies.”

Sherman also boasts a strong technical background in wine lore. He holds a diploma from the International Sommelier Guild and is a certified sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers. “My philosophy is that there’s amazing wine to be had at $30 or $3,000,” he said. “My goal with any wine program is to find wines that showcase a great value, beautiful craftsmanship and wines that people, frankly, like to drink.”

 

-photo by Alison Green

The Scoop: James Beard award eludes Craft and Nashan

Monday, May 5th, 2014

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Local restaurant boosters are sighing disappointment once more as a James Beard Foundation award eluded chefs from The Gateway City yet again. Neither Gerard Craft nor Kevin Nashan, the two local chefs who were among six finalists in the Best Chef: Midwest category, was named winner. Instead, Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee landed that honor.

Craft is chef-owner of Niche, Pastaria, Taste and Brasserie. Nashan is chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe. This is Craft’s fifth time as a finalist in this category; it is Nashan’s first. This year marks the first time that St. Louis saw two of its chefs nominated for Best Chef: Midwest.

 

The Scoop: Gerard Craft and Kevin Nashan named finalists for 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

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{From left, Gerard Craft and Kevin Nashan}

The finalists for the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced today, and St. Louis continues to be represented. Gerard Craft, chef-owner of the Craft family of restaurants and Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe, have made the short list in the Best Chef: Midwest category.

Three other St. Louis chefs were semifinalists in that category: Josh Galliano, chef-owner of The Libertine; Kevin Willmann, chef-owner of Farmhaus; and Ben Poremba, chef-owner of Elaia and Olio.

Among national awards, Rick Lewis of Quincy Street Bistro was in the running with other promising young chefs around the nation in the Rising Star category, while Taste looked to remain in contention for Outstanding Bar Program. Neither advanced to the final round.

Winners of the chef and restaurant awards will be announced at a ceremony in New York City May 5. A full list of nominees is available here.

 

A look at St. Louis’ lineup of 2014 James Beard Award semifinalists

Monday, March 17th, 2014

In February, the St. Louis culinary scene was buzzing with the news that six of its chefs and one of its bars were named semifinalists for a prestigious James Beard Foundation award. Now, one long month later, the finalists for 2014 awards will be announced tomorrow, March 18.

Our fingers are crossed in hopes that The Gateway City garners well-deserved representation in the next round. Follow @SauceMag on Twitter tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. as we live-tweet results and look for a full report on The Scoop.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate those semifinalists who make St. Louis such a tasty place to eat and drink.

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Eat This: Niche’s Lemon-Maple Custard

Monday, March 17th, 2014

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The signature Lemon-Maple Custard at Niche is what happens when chef-owner Gerard Craft takes liberties with chawan mushi, a savory Japanese custard. Presented in a Double Star Farms eggshell with the top cut off, bonito caviar garnishes a nest of roasted shiitake mushrooms. Hidden underneath these earthy, salty layers is a silky, citrusy custard with a sweet touch of local maple syrup. Don’t worry if this divine starter has you scraping the sides of the shell with your little spoon. Everybody does it.

-photo by Greg Rannells

The Scoop: St. Louis is well-represented among 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards semifinalists

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

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The James Beard Foundation has announced this year’s restaurant and chef award semifinalists, and St. Louis is well-represented in among 2014 nominees.

Rick Lewis of Quincy Street Bistro was announced as a semifinalist in the Rising Star category, which recognizes chefs 30 years old or younger who “display an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”

In another national category, Taste was nominated for Outstanding Bar Program.

In the category of Best Chef: Midwest five area chefs made the list: Gerard Craft, chef-owner of the Niche family of restaurants; Nashan, chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe; Kevin Willmann, chef-owner of Farmhaus; Josh Galliano, executive chef at The Libertine; and Ben Poremba, chef-owner of Elaia and Olio.

While Nashan, Craft, Willmann and Galliano have all garnered James Beard Foundation award nominations before, this is Poremba’s first. We had the honor of sharing the good news with Ben Poremba (and possibly waking him up). “Dang!,” he said. “I’m very excited. It’s a big deal for me. What else do you say about something like that? I’m very honored.”

Finalists for the 2014 awards will be announced March 18; winners will be announced at a gala ceremony in New York on May 5.  See a full list of restaurant and chef semifinalists here.

High on the Hog & Hominy at Pastaria Pizza Takeover

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

In November, Pastaria held its first Pizza Takeover when guest chef Michael Paley of Garage Bar showcased the fare from his restaurant in Louisville, Ken. Last night, the Pizza Takeover series resumed with the arrival of chefs Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer from Hog & Hominy in Memphis, Tenn. The pair prepared a three-course Italian menu of antipasti, pizza and dessert that also reflected their southern roots.

We heeded the advice we gave to our Edible Weekend subscribers earlier this week and headed to the Clayton restaurant to encounter a packed house of diners eager to try the lauded fare of Hog & Hominy. Was dinner worth the wait? You bet. Here are some highlights:

 

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-photos by Greg Rannells

The Scoop: Pizza takeover brings Garage Bar chef Michael Paley to Pastaria

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

112013_pastaria{Pastaria chef Gerard Craft, Garage Bar chef Michael Paley}

 

Acclaimed chef Michael Paley of Garage Bar in Louisville, Ken., and Metropole in Cincinnati, Ohio, is in town today. That’s because tonight, Nov. 20, Pastaria chef-owner Gerard Craft will hand the reins to Paley for the restaurant’s first pizza takeover.

At this one-night-only chef switch, guests can experience Paley’s three-course menu of antipasti, pizza and gelato. “I’m doing three appetizers, three pizzas and three ice creams,” Paley said. “I provided the recipes, and I’ll be there to run the staff through each dish.” Look for Paley to work the line and also walk the floor and chat with guests.

Paley explained that the antipasti and pizzas are ones served at Garage Bar, a pizzeria where he tries “to reinterpret Louisville staples or southern specialties.” Rolled oysters, one of the apps available this evening, is “a classic Louisville dish” made famous at a now defunct restaurant in that city, Paley said.

Although the pizzas will be made with Pastaria’s dough recipe, toppings are all Paley’s creations. White Pie & Greens is “my attempt at a salad in a pizza,” said Paley of the combination of mixed greens tossed in a lemon vinaigrette, plus fresh ricotta, fior di latte and Parmigiano. Pumpkin Pie, with its roasted butternut squash purée topped with cheeses, pickled onion, chopped pecans and fried sage, boasts the flavors of fall. Finally, the Sausage Pie features Paley’s house-made bison fennel sausage.

The selection of ice creams for the event – bittersweet chocolate and sea salt sorbet, vanilla rosemary orange, and walnut espresso – gets inspiration not from Garage Bar (where soft serve is dished out) but from Metropole.

Craft noted one reason he organized the pizza takeover is that it allows his cooks “to work through [Paley’s] recipes and learn in the process.” He hopes Paley’s takeover will be the first in a bimonthly guest-chef series and said he was in the midst of organizing visits from Lachlan Patterson of Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, Colo., and chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman of Hog & Hominy in Memphis, Tenn. “I’m trying to get it off the ground so that in the future, it’s happening pretty regularly,” Craft said.

This is Paley’s first pizza takeover. He noted that while he hasn’t hosted one at Garage Bar, “I would love to have Gerard come and do the same thing I’m doing here.” No reservations are accepted for this three-course meal, priced at $28 per person, and Pastaria’s standard menu also will be available this evening.

 

 

The Scoop: A la carte is back at Niche

Friday, September 13th, 2013

062013_niche{Niche’s barrel-aged ricotta with radishes, rhubarb, sorrel and crispy rye}

 
A la carte offerings have returned to Niche. The restaurant changed to a prix fixe menu when it moved to its new space in Clayton last year. However, a la carte is back – with three different options for first, second and third courses and dessert – now available as part of a $55 four-course dinner or individually.

“I have heard from too many of my regulars that they were upset with the mandatory prix fixe,” said chef-owner Gerard Craft. “We don’t want people focusing on the negative the second they come in. At the end of the day, it is all about our customers.”

The current a la carte menu features items such as broccoli soup, watermelon salad, farro pasta and caviar, Gulf red snapper and a pear-centric dessert complemented with the flavors of sassafras, Meyer lemon and pecans. Sauce reviewed Niche in May 2013.

-Photo by Greg Rannells

 

 

 

 

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