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May 05, 2016
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Posts Tagged ‘Gerard Craft’

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

From chef changes at some of STL’s top restaurants to new University City’s first brewery, here’s what went down in the STL food scene in, in case you missed it…

 

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1. Niche executive chef Nate Hereford will hang up his apron at the Clayton institution at the end of May. Hereford said he has accepted a position at Hampton Creek as a research, design and development chef in San Francisco.

2. Audra Angelique and Audrey Faulstich have launched A2 The GFCF Cafe and Restaurant, which opened doors on April 11 at 1330 Washington Ave.

 

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3. Drive down Dorsett Road with the windows down and you may catch a whiff of wood smoke from Big Baby Q and Smokehouse. The new restaurant opened in the Fee Fee Center at 11658 Dorsett Road in Maryland Heights on Monday, April 18.

4. After three years on Cherokee Street, Revel Kitchen will close its doors on Sunday, April 24, as reported by Feast. Revel Kitchen’s delivered prepared food service will also be suspended.

 

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5. Former food truck sushi chef Elliot Harris has found a new, more stationary home. Harris, who sold Chop Shop STL in December 2015, is now executive sushi chef at Baiku Sushi Lounge in Midtown.

6. A new tap room and brewery is in the works, looking to open in early 2017. Senn Bierwerks, founded by Dustin and Kristen Chalfant and James Hellmuth, will produce and distribute beers from a facility at 7593 Olive Blvd., at the corner of Olive and North and South boulevards.

 

-Niche Food Group photo by Jonathan Gayman; Big Baby Q photo by Michelle Volansky; Baiku photo by Carmen Troesser 

The Scoop: Nate Hereford to exit Niche, Brasserie’s Nick Blue to take the helm

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

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{The Niche Food Group Team. Chef Nate Hereford is front row, second from left; chef-owner Gerard Craft is front row, far right.}

 

Niche executive chef Nate Hereford will hang up his apron at the Clayton institution at the end of May. Hereford said he has accepted a position at Hampton Creek as a research, design and development chef in San Francisco.

Niche Food Group chef-owner Gerard Craft said Brasserie executive chef Nick Blue has been tapped to take the top toque at Niche, and Brian Moxey has been named executive chef at Brasserie.

“We’re excited as a company for (Hereford) to take on the big picture stuff,” Craft said. “It’s what we drive for in this company, (but) in a bigger way. It’s so awesome that great leaders are taking this on.”

Hampton Creek is a food production company that focuses on making sustainable products that are good for the consumer and the wider food system. It is the company behind Just Mayo and Just Cookie Dough.

“I’m really excited to be involved with big picture food sustainability issues,” said Hereford. “These issues are near and dear to my heart. This is an opportunity to make a difference in the food system, (in) our kids’ future.”

Hereford has been at Niche for six-and-a-half years, working his way from cook to sous chef to executive chef of the nationally acclaimed restaurant. Craft said he appreciated Hereford’s leadership on the line and within the company.

“Nate’s a lot more (of) even-keeled person than me,” Craft said. “That’s helped him get through a lot of struggles in the process of developing a new cuisine. I’ve learned a ton from that. Not everything’s the end of the world. His even-keeled attitude has allowed him to take the team through a lot of failure. That’s been huge. I’ll definitely miss that.”

 

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{Chef Nick Blue}

Craft pulled Hereford’s replacement from within the Niche Food Group team, tapping Brasserie’s executive chef to take the top spot at Niche. Craft said Blue was the first person he thought of to take the role, citing his experience in both the tradition and history of food and his forward-thinking creativity.

“You have to have both,” said Craft. “He is his own person and also has a playful side that will be fun to see develop. He has huge, huge shoes to fill, and he knows that.”

Blue said he was excited to take on the job. “What Nate’s done has been amazing,” Blue said. “I’m looking forward to keeping the ball rolling and using local Missouri ingredients.”

While Blue has worked in the Niche kitchen intermittently over the years, he and Hereford will spend the next month working together. Blue will also keep one foot at Brasserie to train its new executive chef. Moxey has spent the last two years as head chef at Perennial Artisan Ales, but he previously worked within Niche Food Group at Pastaria. “I have a respect for classic French food,” Moxey said. “I look forward to working with a great group of people.”

Perennial co-owner Emily Wymore said control of the south city brewery’s kitchen will stay in house. Chef Kaleigh Brundick, who has worked with Moxey in Perennial’s kitchens and has three-and-a-half years at Perennial, will step up to head chef.

“We were lucky to have (Moxey),” Wymore said. “He’s an extremely talented chef. We’re excited to see what (Brundick) brings. She has a great palate and is passionate about local, seasonal, ingredient-focused food.”

 

-Niche Food Group photo by Jonathan Gayman; Nick Blue photo courtesy of Niche Food Group

Sneak Peek: Porano Pasta on Washington Avenue

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

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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

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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

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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

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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

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{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

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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

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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

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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.

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