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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Randolph’

Ones to Watch 2018: Bryan Russo

Monday, January 1st, 2018

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Chef de Cuisine, Público
Age: 27
Why Watch Him: His hands are in the fire, but his head is in the books.

You could say Bryan Russo’s career started at Taco Bell. He did, after all, snag a job at the fast-food chain with his bandmates in high school, leading him to ditch music and sign up for culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu.

Or you could say it started with his Italian grandma and her ungodly good biscuits. One bite and he swore off the canned stuff forever, a revelation that took him down the flour-dusted rabbit hole of sourdough trials and fermentation experiments he’s still winding down today.

But no matter where he started, now he’s here: running a James Beard Award-nominated kitchen. “Bryan came on before Público was even built out,” explained Público chef-owner Mike Randolph. “He started as a cook and really quickly worked himself up to a sous chef. When we shook up the kitchen about six months ago, it made so much sense to make Bryan chef de cuisine. He is responsible beyond his years. He’s eager to learn.”

More like hungry for it. Russo doesn’t believe in secrets, and he doesn’t think you should either. He wants to learn any way he can: with his head in a book, from the guy on the line or trolling bread forums in his spare time. “I went into [Público] not knowing a damn thing about Latin food,” Russo said. “It was, hey, I want those burnt tortillas in my mole. I want those ash-roasted carrots in this thing. It was a lot of learning; I couldn’t have done it without the other guys in the kitchen.”

And his education continues. At Público, he’s messing around with cooking bread in the ashes of the wood-burning fire. “Shove it in there, and in a minute or two you have this ugly looking thing,” he explained. “You knock the coal right off, and it’s got this really nice, caramel-y, tasty bread.” Every item on the menu has his fingerprints on it, most the delectable result of collaboration with Randolph – or “Coach,” as Russo calls him. On the side, he’s baking sourdough for Squatter’s Café, where they slather it with fresh ricotta and serve it simply with the season’s brightest bounty.

The only thing Russo knows about his future is that it will involve open fire, something with bread. When you never stop learning, just about anything is possible.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Stacy Schultz is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine. 

Ones to Watch 2018: Hana Chung

Monday, January 1st, 2018

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Line Cook, Vista Ramen
Age: 30
Why Watch Her: She’s cooking circles around all the dudes in town.

If the restaurant inside Hana Chung’s mind was a dinner party, you’d so want that invite. The table would be crowded with everyone from her Korean-born parents to her pizzaolo husband and the buddies she’s met inside the long list of local kitchens on her resume: folks from Byrd & Barrel and Juniper swapping stories with her current Vista Ramen kitchen mates.

The music would be loud and the guests would be louder; wafts from the kitchen would be salty, sweet and acidic. The food: “hardy, home-ish” Korean dishes her mom and grandma used to make her
back home. “Right now, food is kind of weird, almost segregated,” Chung said. “You have your really fancy food that only a small percentage of people in St. Louis can eat. I think there’s a market for good, local food that everyone can afford, and that’s my main goal.”

Despite her high-profile resume, Chung had one request when she began at Vista. “By choice, Hana kind of wanted to get back to just cooking. She’s a line cook here,” said Vista chef-owner Chris Bork. “That’s her position, but she’s a lot more than that. She will cook circles around a lot of the dudes that I’ve known. She’s just hardworking, and you could see instantly – Hana knows how this works.”

In an industry known for tempers that flare higher than kitchen fires, Chung has the rare gift of an easygoing attitude. “She was with us toward the end of Randolfi’s,” said Mike Randolph, chef-owner of the now-closed restaurant. “Those were some pretty hairy times. She kept us sane through really long hours and short staffs those last weeks. She would leave these little notes of encouragement around the stations for the cooks. She was a positive influence at a time when we really needed one.”

So, what’s next for Chung and her Korean street food spot dream? For now, Chung is learning more about her craft and spreading good vibes wherever she goes. “How can you not be happy when you’re in the kitchen dancing to Aretha and making food you like?” she asked. Preach.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Stacy Schultz is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine. 

 

Best New Restaurants: No. 2 – Privado

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

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Reservations only. Open just two seatings on Friday and Saturday. Sixteen diners, max. A 12- to 15-course tasting menu that changes nightly.

But don’t get the wrong idea. Privado is high-concept dining performed to a Bruce Springsteen soundtrack by a Midwestern chef who is genuinely having fun – and guests are having a blast, too. This is fine dining according to Mike Randolph.

“I really wanted to prove to myself as much as anyone else that we could – in this particular market, two nights a week – change the way the people thing about a ‘fine dining’ experience,” Randolph said.

Yes, there are a handful of seats at the bar, where those who still pine for Randolfi’s can walk in and select from a tight menu of pasta and snacks. Randolph even hosts occasional weeknight pop-ups to stretch his creative muscles (curry, anyone?). But to truly experience Privado, book a reservation online and prepare for a three-hour multisensory meal.

When you arrive, you feel like you’re in on a secret – sneaking into a restaurant for a private meal on the chef’s day off. Swing by the open kitchen before service and chat with Randolph and his team (no starched chef whites here, just a couple of guys in baseball caps and aprons) while you sip an aperitif and snack on an amuse bouche served at the pass. That’s the whole point: to create a relaxed, organic interaction between diner and kitchen. “We want people to feel disarmed, like they can come in and be themselves,” Randolph said.

 

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As First Aid Kit’s cover of “America” cues up, settle in to the first course – perhaps Missouri paddlefish caviar atop a crema cloud – and feel free to audibly marvel. Everyone else is, and it gets louder as the wine pairings flow to a steady playlist of rock, bluegrass, soul and jazz.

The meal features two- to three-bite dishes you’ll stretch into seven or eight nibbles just to study their complexity and savor the moment. Observe the crisp skin atop a meaty cube of pork belly and how it provides textural contrast to the unctuous liver (yes, liver) ice cream. Swoon over a raviolo stuffed with braised turnips and buried under a snowbank of white truffle shavings, presented on its own hand-carved spoon.

Swipe the perfect cylinder of mind-blowing Taleggio cheese wrapped in dried pear through vibrant sorrel ice cream. Wonder why on earth you never thought to pair earthy porcini mushrooms with rich dark chocolate ganache before now. Savor the last bite as Roy Orbison croons “It’s Over” and collect your thoughts between sips of Madeira and French-pressed coffee. You’ll never experience that meal again – and neither will anyone else.

Photos by Carmen Troesser

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• First Look: Privado in The Loop

• Mike Randolph will open Privado in former Randolfi’s space

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

First Look: Privado in The Loop

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

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Privado, the new weekend-only tasting menu concept from chef-owner Mike Randolph opens tomorrow, Oct. 20, bringing a fine-dining experience to the Delmar Loop.

Privado is located at 6665 Delmar Blvd., in the space that once housed Randolph’s Italian restaurant, Randolfi’s, which closed last month. As The Scoop reported in September, Privado is reservations-only, offers one tasting menu (usually between 12 and 15 courses) and has a single seating on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Only 16 seats are available per service.

The menu changes constantly, giving Randolph a unique chance to experiment with a wide variety of flavors and ingredients. It also gives diners a different culinary experience each time they visit.

The restaurant’s interior has been tweaked a bit since the Randolfi’s era to enhance the new concept. Two community tables now sit directly in front of the open kitchen for a full view of the action. LED lights mounted in shadowboxes above each seat create the perfect spotlight (and phone-friendly photo lighting) for each dish.

The kitchen has been streamlined for service with new workstations and shelving, though the signature wood-fired oven remains (as does the poster of “Born In The U.S.A”-era Bruce Springsteen). The front of the space, which used to serve as the main dining room, is available for private events during the week.

For those who want to stop by Privado for a drink and a bite, the bar area is available for walk-ins and reservations. A small a la carte food menu is available, as well as a drinks list that includes four classic cocktails, four rotating cocktails, plus a limited selection of beer, wine and spirits. The bar menu incorporates ingredients that appear on the tasting room bill of fare and includes an appetizer, two pastas, an entree and a dessert.

Tickets for each seating are available online in two-month blocks – October is already sold out, and November and December are starting to fill up. Here’s a first look at what to expect from Randolph’s newest project:

 

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Photos by Caitlin Lally 

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Mike Randolph will open Privado in former Randolfi’s space

• Randolfi’s will close in The Loop Sept. 9

• Best New Restaurants: No. 1 – Público

Mike Randolph will open Privado in former Randolfi’s space

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

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Mike Randolph is finally getting his experimental fine-dining restaurant. As The Scoop reported in late August, Randolph closed his Italian Randolfi’s at 6665 Delmar Blvd. earlier this month. He plans to open Privado in the same space in October.

“It is exciting,” Randolph said. “It took a little bit of time to just get over the hurt of Randolfi’s, but once we figured out what was possible and what we wanted to do, we kept coming back to this.”

Privado will be a fine-dining tasting menu restaurant open on Friday and Saturday evenings for one service of about 15 courses for just 16 patrons. Tickets for each dinner will be available online for $100 each. The first service is planned for Oct. 20.

“I’ve thrown a ton of things at the wall, but I’ve never given [fine-dining] a fair chance,” Randolph said. “We want to be in there two, three, four days a week experimenting, tweaking techniques, processing ingredients.”

He plans to design the space and experience – the plating, lighting, music, even the smell in the room – in ways that were impossible at his previous fine-dining projects (Little Country Gentleman and the Diversion Dinners series), since they took place in other, permanent establishments. “This is no longer a divergence from work – this is work,” Randolph said. “This is a singular focus.”

The bar will be open around weekend dinners, so customers can have a cocktail before or after their meal. A handful of snacks and desserts will be available for those who just want to pop in for a drink as they wait for a table at Público or wander in from The Loop – though reservations are encouraged for bar seats as well.

During the week, Privado will serve as a private event space, available for everything from baby showers to cooking demonstrations, and a kind of commissary kitchen that Randolph’s other restaurants can use when they need extra space. “This will give us a really flexible space,” he said. “We can do anything we need to do within the restaurant group out of that space.”

“We’re excited – that’s the long and the short of it,” Randolph said. “It’s switched from sorrow to excitement.”

 

Photo by Greg Rannells for Mike Randolph

Heather Hughes is managing editor at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
Meals That Changed My Life: Mike Randolph

Randolfi’s will close in The Loop Sept. 9

Best New Restaurants: No. 4 – Randolfi’s Italian Kitchen

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Randolfi’s will close in The Loop Sept. 9

Monday, August 28th, 2017

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Randolfi’s, at 6665 Delmar Blvd. in The Loop, has announced it will be shutting its doors. The last day of service will be Saturday, Sept. 9.

“We’ve thrown everything that we have into this restaurant. There have been a lot of tears, but it’s time to close the chapter. We are so proud of what we’ve accomplished at Randolfi’s,” said chef and co-owner Mike Randolph in a press release.

Randolfi’s opened in 2015, replacing Randolph’s Neapolitan pizzeria The Good Pie in the same space. It was one of Sauce’s Best New Restaurants 2015.

A number of local chefs who previously worked at Randolfi’s and The Good Pie will be returning for the final night of service on September 9, including Ted Wilson of Union Loafers, Taylor Hamilton of Melo’s Pizzeria and Russ Bodner of Taste.

“Over nine years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with so many amazing people. It’s been the highlight of my career,” Randolph said in the press release. “I look forward to bringing back those alumni for one final service.”

More information on the future of the restaurant will be released at a later date.

Photo by Greg Rannells

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine.

Related Content
Best New Restaurants 2015: Randolfi’s 

Chef Tommy “Salami” Andrew to lead kitchen at Randolfi’s as chef de cuisine

•  Ones to Watch 2016: Jeffrey Moll

First Look: Half & Half in Webster Groves

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

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Webster Groves residents will set their alarm clocks a little earlier when Half & Half opens at 220 W. Lockwood Ave. Co-owners Mike and Liz Randolph hope to open the second location of their popular Clayton breakfast and lunch spot by the end of August, pending final inspections.

As The Scoop reported in January, the Randolphs (who also own Randolfi’s and Público in The Loop) signed a lease on the space that once housed First Watch Cafe. The four-month renovation process, helmed by SPACE Architecture & Design, has yielded an 85-seat eatery with a light, airy feel. Randolph said he wanted to evoke the feeling of a New England-style breakfast spot with bright white walls and benches, a large space for waiting near the host stand and big picture windows along the front.

Half & Half executive chef Dale Beauchamp will move to the Webster Groves space, executing the same menu as the sister location – though each restaurant will feature its own weekend brunch specials. Those just looking for a caffeine buzz can pop their heads through a to-go window in the breezeway and place a quick coffee order with the barista behind the bar. This Half & Half will also carry Blueprint Coffee and offer a full menu of traditional drip and espresso options, as well as pour-overs.

Half & Half will be open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Here’s what to expect when doors open at the Randolphs’ newest restaurant.

 

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 Space photos by Michelle Volansky; pancake and coffee photos by Carmen Troesser

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
Best of Brunch 2017

Half & Half to open second location in Webster Groves

Meals That Changed My Life: Mike Randolph

Meals That Changed My Life: Mike Randolph

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

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Chef Mike Randolph has opened a number of restaurants since working at Chicago’s now-shuttered Moto. Starting with The Good Pie in 2008, Randolph went on to open Half & Half, Little Country Gentleman, Medianoche, Randolfi’s and Público. As he gears up to open Half & Half’s second location in Webster Groves this summer, he told us about one meal he ate in 2001 when he was at a professional fork in the road and the late chef Michel Richard changed his life.

 

Citronelle, Washington, D.C. (2001)
“I was finishing school for political science and had just kind of realized I hadn’t done well enough to get the jobs I really wanted. I didn’t want to muddle around at the bottom of the industry, so I started thinking about culinary school. One night [my wife, my parents and I] went to Michel Richard’s Citronelle in D.C. It was in the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, and the restaurant had this beautiful glass-front kitchen. It was the first time I had seen four guys plating one plate of food. And I remember thinking, ‘Look how calm everything is.’ The kitchens I had worked in were like a mad rush, and here’s this place and nobody’s breaking a sweat.

“One of the things that really stuck out to me was that there was a sense of humor in the food. They had the toques, the pressed chef jackets, tweezers, all that … but at the same time they didn’t take themselves too seriously. I remember getting a plate that looked like a sunny side up egg with bacon and toast. I think the toast was marzipan, the bacon was something, the egg was set panna cotta for the whites and a mango for the middle. Now, that dish is the Food Network version of molecular gastronomy, like, ‘You can do this at home in six easy steps!’ But in 2001, it was eye-opening. Here you are at this French institution, and you expect this delicate little financier, and then here comes this cafeteria tray. There was the sense that Michel Richard was having fun with you at the end of your meal.

“This was before Moto and Alinea. Throughout the course of the night, I was just totally blown away that food could be something that I never knew about. It was perfectly seasoned small bites of food, tons of textures – that was Michel Richard’s big thing. Every dish had some crunchy element, some kind of creative textural contrast. It was absolutely my first exposure to any of that, and I think that’s what made me so interested in Moto. At this point in my life, [molecular gastronomy] is something I’ve grown out of – now I just want a perfectly cooked piece of meat with one sauce. But I felt like at that time it was cool to research and delve into what food could be – texturally and flavor-wise. I’ve had a lot of pretty transcendent meals, but that stands alone.”

 

Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan

Editors’ Note: The print issue of this story incorrectly stated that the new Half & Half location would be in Kirkwood. This piece has been updated with the correct location. 

The Scoop: James Beard Foundation names Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann Best Chef: Midwest finalists

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

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{ from left, Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan, Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann } 

 

The St. Louis restaurant scene experienced a bit of déjà vu when the finalists for the James Beard Foundation Awards were announced today, March 15. Two St. Louis chefs moved on as finalists in the Best Chef: Midwest category: Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan and Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann. Both chefs were finalists in this category last year.

“I’m so grateful,” Nashan said. “You never know if you’re going to on the list again – it’s torturous! I’m just so grateful and really excited for the team. I just found out and I’m really blown away.”

Willmann found out about the news when Sauce called for comment. “Oh, no shit? Hell yeah!” he said. “I’m really proud of my team this year, we have an awesome groove going, and the sky’s the limit. “

As The Scoop reported in February, the James Beard Foundation named four St. Louis-area chefs as semifinalists in the Best Chef: Midwest category. Olive & Oak executive chef Jessie Mendica and Público chef-owner Mike Randolph did not make it to the final round. Pastaria executive chef Ashley Shelton, a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, also didn’t advance to the final round.

Winners of the chef and restaurant awards will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago on May 1. Local eatery Gioia’s Deli will also be honored at the gala; the Beard Foundation honored The Hill sandwich shop with an America’s Classic award in January.

 

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• The Scoop: 5 St. Louis chefs earn James Beard Foundation semifinalist honors

The Scoop: James Beard Foundation declares Gioia’s Deli an American Classic

The Scoop: James Beard award eludes Willmann and Nashan

The Scoop: 5 St. Louis chefs earn James Beard Foundation semifinalist honors

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

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{ Pastaria executive chef Ashley Shelton } 

 

The James Beard Foundation announced its 2017 restaurant and chef award semifinalists today, Feb. 15. St. Louis’s recent run of recognition from the foundation continues, as five St. Louis chefs earned nominations for the esteemed culinary awards.

Pastaria executive chef Ashley Shelton was named a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year. This award recognizes “a chef age 30 or younger who displays impressive talent and is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”

“It’s pretty much every chef’s dream come true to be recognized in that way,” Shelton said.

The JBFA nod is the latest in a growing list of recognition for Shelton. She is a member of the Sauce Ones to Watch Class of 2016, and Eater named her a Young Gun of 2016. Shelton said the honors validate her leadership style in the kitchen. “For me, it keeps pushing me and telling that the path I’m on is the right path,” she said. “We’re trying to do something different in our restaurants – not screaming and yelling.”

Pastaria owner Gerard Craft, who won Best Chef: Midwest in 2015, said Shelton’s culinary future is bright, and not just because she’s a talented cook.

“Being a chef is being a chief. It’s being a leader. It’s one of the hardest parts of the job,” Craft said. “For somebody her age to lead a team the size that she leads and operation the size that she leads, I can’t imagine anybody doing it better. What she’s going to do in the future is sure to be amazing.”

 

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{ from left, Olive & Oak executive chef Jesse Mendica, Perennial Artisan Ales’ Phil Wymore and Olive & Oak owner Mark Hinkle }

 

JBF also named four area chefs as semifinalists in the Best Chef: Midwest region: Olive & Oak executive chef Jesse Mendica, Público chef-owner Mike Randolph, Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan and Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann. This category acknowledges “chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions.”

This is the first Beard Foundation honor for Mendica. Neither she nor Olive & Oak owner Mark Hinkle could immediately be reached for comment.

 

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{ Público chef-owner Mike Randolph }

 

This is the second semifinalist nod for Randolph, whose restaurant Público was named a finalist for Best New Restaurant 2016.

“Going into last year I had put so much emphasis on the restaurant getting the Best New nomination because I felt like that was kind of a loftier goal, to be honest,” Randolph said, crediting his team with the restaurant’s success. “But that being said, I look at this list – these are people that I admire and that I respect. Any time you get a chance to see your name thrown in that hat, it’s humbling. It makes me want to work harder – and go in and hug everyone at Público.”

 

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 { Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann }

Nashan and Willmann are no strangers to this prestigious honor. Willmann earned his first finalist nod last year. “It’s always an honor and always exciting, especially for the crew,” he said. “They go so hard to keep our standards up.”

 

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 { Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan }

 

Nashan has twice made it to the finalist round of this category. “It’s awesome and amazing,” he said. “I literally just found out. It’s an honor any time you’re mentioned — it’s just great to be on the bus.”

Finalists will be announced March 15, and the winners will be named May 1 in Chicago. A full list of the winners is available online.

 

Editor’s note: This post was updated Wednesday, Feb. 15 at noon to add comments from Kevin Willmann. 

Heather Hughes, Catherine Klene and Matt Sorrell contributed to this report.

Ashley Shelton and Kevin Willmann photos by Carmen Troesser; Kevin Nashan photo by Greg Rannells; Mike Randolph photo courtesy of Público by Greg Rannells; Jesse Mendica photo courtesy of Olive & Oak Facebook

 

Related Content
• The Scoop: James Beard Foundation declares Gioia’s Deli an American Classic

The Scoop: James Beard award eludes Willmann and Nashan

The Scoop: Chefs Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann earn finalist nods for JBFA Best Chef: Midwest

The Scoop: 5 STL-area chefs, The Side Project Cellar, Stone Soup Cottage all earn JBFA nods

The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award

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