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Jan 21, 2018
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Matt McGuire’

First Look: Louie on DeMun Avenue

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

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St. Louis restaurant veteran Matt McGuire is almost ready to open doors at Louie as soon as Tuesday, Dec. 5.

As The Scoop reported in November 2016, the former King Louie’s owner announced he was taking over part of 706 Demun Ave., in Clayton, the space that used to house Jimmy’s on the Park. The 2,800-square-foot space  underwent a significant makeover and now features custom wallpaper, a 21-seat bar and shelving units constructed from old post boxes. Louie’s focal point is a massive wood-fired oven at the back of the restaurant, where house pizzas are fired each night.

McGuire tapped head chef Sean Turner and chef de cuisine Josh Poletti to helm the tight, Italian-inspired menu. Dishes will rotate frequently, featuring small plates, pizzas, a house pasta or two and a few meatier mains. Turner and Poletti developed simple dishes relying on quality produce and careful execution, like charred broccolini with a Calabrian vinaigrette.

 

McGuire’s passion for wine is evident in the bar program, where around 55 Italian varietals are available by the bottle and a dozen or so by the glass. Local bartender Samm McCullough designed the aperitif-focused cocktail menu featuring classics like a Negroni, a spritz and an Old Pal. One tap pours Bells Amber Ale, and easy-drinking bottles and cans round out the beer selection.

Louie’s will start with dinner service Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 5 to 11 p.m. Here’s a first look at what to expect from DeMun’s newest restaurant when it opens next week.

 

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Photos by Michelle Volansky 

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Matt McGuire to open Louie in former Jimmy’s on the Park space

• What I Do: Matt McGuire

• Jimmy’s on the Park closes after more than two decades

The Scoop: Matt McGuire to open Louie in former Jimmy’s on the Park space

Monday, November 28th, 2016

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{Matt McGuire}

Niche Food Group alum and owner of the former King Louie’s Matt McGuire will open Louie (without the King) in part of the former Jimmy’s on the Park space, as reported by St. Louis Magazine. Jimmy’s closed after more than two decades in the DeMun neighborhood. 

McGuire was drawn to the approximately 2,800-square-foot space because of its size, but more importantly because it’s located in the DeMun neighborhood. 

“That stretch of DeMun has always been a community that feels really good, it has a neighborhood feel. The same people go to the same coffee stores, the same wine bars — it’s been that way for a very long time,” said McGuire. “There’s a number of things that sort of just came together at the right time. My kids are a little older now, [so it] makes it easier for me. … There are just a lot of pieces, both personal and business, that felt like the timing was right.”

McGuire is still in the early planning stages and is currently working on shaping both the design of the space, as well as his specific vision for the restaurant. He wants it to be a true neighborhood spot rather than a destination restaurant. With plans still in the relatively early stages, he’s waiting for work on the space to progress before setting a timeline for an opening. 

Related Content
• The Scoop: Jimmy’s on the Park closes after more than two decades
 A Chat with Matt McGuire

Photo by Ashley Gieseking 

The Scoop: Adam Altnether parts ways with Niche Food Group

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

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{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.

 

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{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: 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

In This Issue: A Chat with Matt McGuire

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

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For 12 years, industry veteran Matt McGuire co-owned King Louie’s, until the restaurant’s doors closed in 2007. Since then, he’s made his mark as a general manager – at Monarch, Brasserie, Central Table Food Hall and now Niche. McGuire considers the GM job akin to being a soccer coach or teacher. But on any given day, he might also play referee, EMT, bouncer, psychotherapist – even mind reader. Here’s the inside story on being Matt McGuire.

What have you learned in your 20-plus years in the biz?
To be good at the job in the front of the house, you have to give something of yourself. Otherwise, the guests see through you. The physical work is hard, but the hard part is the mental. It is putting yourself in a position every night to be welcoming and solicitous and kind.

What kind of fires do you put out on any given day?
I’ve given the Heimlich to tons of people. … Deal with people who are super-drunk when they come in the door. … A lot of times, people will be way too upset about something. That can be the part that is most draining – just dealing with humans. But it’s also the part I like. And teaching other people how to handle it.

What’s the strangest situation you’ve had to deal with?
At King Louie’s, the Barnum & Bailey circus train stopped behind the restaurant. They all came in to eat and drink. A guy had his dog with him. The dog sat at the bar. We were trying to make the decision behind the scenes whether or not to ask him to leave. The guy had his whole meal. The dog sat right next to him. It was like an out-of-body, Fellini-esque [moment], where you’re like, “This is not happening. This doesn’t happen at the fancy restaurant that I worked before I came here.”

What are the hallmarks of good service?
I learned a lot watching the Bommaritos [owners of Tony’s] over the years. They remain the paramount of what service is supposed to be. It’s relaxed; it is confident; it is not overly formal.

What kind of pressure do you feel working at Niche?
A lot. This is a totally different level of “slammed.” You can do 60 guests and feel wiped out. Managing those expectation levels are everything. You have to over-deliver because of everything they read.

What has changed about dining over the years?
Diners are way less present than they used to be. They are way more into recording their experience than experiencing the experience.

What excites you about the St. Louis restaurant scene?
There are enough people that are talented that have stayed. Those were few and far between 15 years ago. All those kids [points to the Niche kitchen] are from Chicago. They’re here because of this restaurant. A restaurant as compelling as Niche that challenges them on a professional level didn’t exist back then.

Your opinion is well respected around town. How frequently do you get calls from peers about, “Should I hire this person?”
Every day.

What advice do you have for those in the restaurant industry?
Who you are is made up by how you act every day. If you’re late every day, we know you as “late person.” If you’re sloppy, we know you as the sloppy person. Whoever you aspire to be, bring it every day. And then, wherever you go, you have practice of being that person.

Are you a restaurant guy for life?
Yeah, the possibility of me being an investment banker or an underwater welder is probably past me now.

– Photo by Jonathan Gayman

 

 

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