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Posts Tagged ‘Newstead Tower Public House’

Ask the Chef: Anthony Devoti answers your questions

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

071911_devotebenneIn the first installment of our new online column, Ask the Chef, we put down our pens to let you – our readers – take a turn asking some of the stars in St. Louis’ culinary scene your burning questions. First up is Anthony Devoti, chef and owner of Five Bistro and the shuttered Newstead Tower Public House. And now, from how he got his start to whether he’d ever open another Newstead to his cheese of choice for his cheese steak, he answers your questions …

How did you get started cooking?
Well, we’ve always cooked at home. My folks always cooked a bunch and I’ve always been around food; it’s always been something I’ve been interested in growing up. My grandparents owned a couple restaurants, more I would say breakfast and lunch places. I don’t know if you’d call them greasy spoons but they were more like eggs and toast and working man’s kind of food. My dad worked there when he was a kid; my aunts and uncles all worked there when they were kids. And holiday events, we’re an Italian family and so food was a big deal when we all got together.

How do you source those awesome ingredients?
Well when I first started a lot of this stuff I went to markets for. I was actually actively going to markets meeting farmers. Now I don’t really have to do a whole lot; farmers come to me. They know what we do, we have a good reputation with farmers and we have really good cooks so I think farmers are very proud to bring their products to me. When I first started, I knew Ron Benne (pictured at left) for like six years. I was working in a restaurant in Chesterfield and tried to get that restaurant to be a farm-to-table-to-kitchen type of restaurant. So I met Ron when I was working out there, and when I moved back to St. Louis from San Francisco he was the first person I called. He gave me tips on how to meet these people. I went online and did a bunch of research before the restaurant opened, too. For the last couple of years … people just bring me stuff or they call and they say, “I have this, this and this – do you want it?” Chef-wise we bring each other up, too. Some people say, “Hey this product is unbelievable. I know this guy is good and he will take care of it.” I met Mike Brabo from Vesterbrook [Farm] from Kevin Nashan. Kevin said this guy is a great cook, he loves food and is a really good guy and he would do justice to that product.

A food district executive told me the locavore movement is a “fad, unsustainable and too expensive for 97 percent of consumers.” What are your thoughts?
I just think it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. … Locavore is not a movement; it should be a practice. You can eat local if you want to sacrifice and you want to eat real, local food, then you can do it. Is it a little more expensive? Yes, of course. But we grow a bunch of vegetables on our own; it’s not exactly hard to do. I think that that’s a pretty big cop out kind of answer. You have to want to eat good food to eat local. And just because you’re buying local food it means the product’s going to be better but if you don’t know how to cook it, it’s not going to help anything. It’s up to us to all get together. The more people who eat local and buy local, the more readily available it will be, the more farmers who will take care of us. When you go to the grocery store and 80 percent of things are made from corn or corn-based, that’s not really helpful. People have been eating local since the beginning of man. That, to me, is just a stupid comment from the food executive.

Who do you see as upcoming stars of the St. Louis food scene?
I don’t really know; I think the stars are relatively established. I think Adam [Altnether] over at Taste; he’s a really good guy, kind of a fun person to watch I guess. I think there’s a lot of Gerard [Craft] influence in his food personally, but he’s a great guy and he can certainly think on his own. You have to be a really good cook and he’s a really good cook. I eat in a circle of restaurants and I do a circle of things, and so I like Kevin [Nashan] and I like Gerard’s stuff and Josh [Galliano] and those guys. But when I eat out, I typically eat ethnic food; I don’t really go eat at those guys’ restaurants a lot of times because they’re closed when I’m off. Adam I think is a big one. I got a couple guys working for me that I think are pretty kick-ass cooks, and one day they’ll probably end up leaving, but I hope not. I know what they can do.

As many huge strides as St. Louis has taken, I think there are a lot of steps that go backward too. That doesn’t help what people are trying to do food-wise. … People go to culinary school and they think that, oh I’m gonna go to culinary school and I’m gonna be there for six months to a year, and then I’ll work in a hotel and then I’ll work at Five [Bistro]. That’s not how it is. It sucks, it’s hard, it’s hot and it’s even shittier and hotter on days like today. You have to really love what you do to be in this spot.

Newstead made my St. Louis top five list. The burger is simply the best. The service was great! What were the reasons to close?
To be fairly frank and straightforward, we had to close Newstead because of business. It was a lot of people’s top five but it wasn’t enough people’s top five. The quality of the product we were using there was very expensive; it was the same as we do at Five. We had to do a lot of people to turn that over. And The Grove neighborhood hasn’t done anything. It hasn’t done anything since Five was over there. … It was a cool spot and it was an awesome building, but the rest of the neighborhood wasn’t there. I can think of other corners it would’ve been better on; if it was on any of those corners it wouldn’t even be a question.

Are there any reasons that would get you to open another?
I don’t know – a really good location probably. I’m in the spot now [where] I would want to own my own building; I wouldn’t lease ever again. We own our building at Five, and there’s a lot of BS that comes along with it – if the air conditioner breaks, you’re responsible for fixing it – but I wouldn’t change that for anything, the control that you have. We talk about it all the time. That’s pretty much the only reason we do lunch at Five is the burger at Newstead. We only do it three days a week, but that’s something that we kind of wanted to keep going and keep alive and something we felt very strongly about.

Which do you prefer on a cheese steak sandwich: provolone, Provel or Cheese Whiz?
Cheese Whiz. It can be as processed and as terrible and synthetic as whatever, but Cheese Whiz for sure.

Any sous chef opportunities at your restaurant right now?
No, I don’t hire out for chef management kind of things. We build up totally from within. The crew that I have, the person that’s been there the least amount of time is, well we’ve got two new people at six months. Everybody else is two to three years plus. It’s work up to that position for us. It’s because I’m relatively difficult to work for. I think I’m easy to work with, but we have very high expectations. We do a lot of canning and jarring and we buy lots of potatoes and things in the winter. You have to understand the seasonality of what we do. … We brainstrom about menus and what we’re going to do; it’s a pretty open idea process we have going on. And when asparagus season is only six weeks long, people don’t really get that. … When we get further on, you really understand the best timing of things and the seasonality of all of it. You can work [at] some of these places for a couple years before you really understand that. We’re always learning. We’re a bunch of food dorks to the core. We get off on reading magazines and watching TV and reading books about food and that’s what we talk about whenever we’re around each other. And we have a big garden so we enjoy gardening too; that’s a big deal to us.

— Photo by Greg Rannells

Ask the Chef: We’ve asked chef Anthony Devoti every question in the book. Now, it’s your turn.

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

102710_ADevotiWelcome to Ask the Chef, a new online column in which we take a step back from our journalistic duties to let you, our readers, talk to some of the best and brightest in St. Louis’ culinary scene. First up: Anthony Devoti.

As chef-owner of Five Bistro, the farm-to-table restaurant that sits on the corner of Daggett Avenue and Hereford Street on The Hill, Anthony Devoti is one of the area’s most renowned chefs. A meal at Five is a glimpse of the locavore movement, featuring local and organic produce, freshly caught fish and naturally raised meat prepared using a variety of cooking techniques. Devoti prides himself on using ingredients from several area farmers he has close relationships with, changing his menu daily to provide his diners with a taste of the seasons and the region. A devotee to nose-to-tail cooking, he’s the in-house butcher and charcutier at Five, which he runs alongside his parents (who will greet you at the door with a smile as you walk in).

He’s also the former chef-owner of the now shuttered Newstead Tower Public House, a seasonally focused gastropub and home to what many local food folk have deemed the best burger in the city. Devoti is well-versed in St. Louis’ bustling craft beer scene and can hold his own with a wine list, often handpicking the bottles for the wine and beer dinners he regularly offers to diners at his restaurants.

Devoti’s skills in the kitchen have even garnered a bit of national attention. Earlier this year, he was up for Food and Wine Magazine’s first People’s Best New Chef award for the Midwest region, a new accolade where voters determine the winner. And just last April, Eater included the Five burger on its list of 15 of the Country’s Hottest Burgers.

So there you have it – a few things about this talented chef (more on Devoti’s credentials here). Now, get your pens out (Or shall we say keyboards?) because it’s your turn to play reporter. From what makes the Five Burger so darn tasty to his favorite way to prepare pork to how he really felt about having to close Newstead, this is your chance to ask one of St. Louis’ stars whatever’s on your mind. And it couldn’t be easier. Just post your question on our Facebook wall, tweet us your question with the hashtag #askthechef  or e-mail us here. We’ll be chatting with Devoti next Tuesday, so be sure to get your questions in quickly and check back next week to see if he answered your queries. So what are you waiting for? Go on, ask the chef!

The Scoop: Riddles is the latest in a string of local restaurant closings

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

110310_riddlesIt may be flu season, but it looks like we’ve got a case of (very) bad timing. As you’ll see in our November issue, which hit the streets Monday, Old School columnist Liz O’Connor weighed in with a review of Riddles, the beloved locavore restaurant in University City. We learned today, though, that Riddles is closed until further notice. Didn’t see that one coming.

Owner KT Ayers said in a statement that “circumstances in my life made it impossible to put in the time and effort that it has been taking to pull this restaurant thing off. We tried bringing someone else in, but that really seemed to compromise a lot of the Riddles brand. We are looking at a couple different roads right now, but nothing is in stone.” She added that neither she nor her father will be running Riddles in the near future.

The Riverfront Times’ Ian Froeb reported that “According to Case.net, on October 28, the owner of 6307 Delmar Boulevard, Bobby’s Creole Inc., filed a suit in St. Louis County for “AC Rent and Possession” against A&P Eateries Inc. (Riddle’s) and Katherine (better known as KT) Ayers, the owner of Riddle’s.”

Ayers told Sauce today that:

“The owner of the building is just doing what anyone would do on such short notice. That is, covering her tail in the legal department while simultaneously working closely with me personally to figure a mutually agreeable outcome that will, in fact, keep things out of court. She and I have a good relationship personally, and we are in close contact. But she has to be covered just in case. I have been quite forthcoming with her about my problems for quite some time, and she has been valuable as a sounding board and voice of experience as both a woman business owner and a restauranteur [sic]. … This is just procedure in the super-unlikely event of a worst-case scenario.

“I bit off more than I could chew with the perfect storm of (my) business inexperience, the (shitty) economy, and the big takeoff of Eat Here (rendering my dad too busy to really mentor me like he intended). If I knew three years ago what I know now, I would have taken the same plunge, probably with different results, but my learning curve was no match for the aforementioned factors. That said, I have run the kitchen at Riddles since I was 21, and I don’t think I’m vain to take some of the credit for the kudos we’ve gotten in those 13 years. I can’t wait to be a cook again, and I really don’t mind working for somebody else.”

The long-loved spot is the latest victim in a slew of restaurant closings that have hit the St. Louis area in the last few weeks. Teutenberg’s downtown, Wapango in Chesterfield Mall, Caito’s in Chesterfield, Growlers Pub in Creve Coeur, The Pasta House in the Central West End and Newstead Tower Public House in The Grove have all shuttered in the last few weeks. An American Place, the fine dining establishment in the Renaissance Grande Hotel downtown, is also set to shutter its doors within the next week or so.

The Scoop: Devoti on closing Newstead, future of Five

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

102710_ADevotiAs reported over the weekend by the Riverfront Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Anthony Devoti, chef-owner of Five Bistro on The Hill and Newstead Tower Public House, announced the imminent closing of his gastropub in The Grove.

Yesterday, Devoti told Sauce that plans to close Newstead were a year in the works. “The original plan was to close by the end of last year but we were able to keep things cruising for about a year. I would say it was 100 percent economical. We moved Five from over there a year and a half ago because our lease was up. We were able to find a building we could buy, the current Five. It pretty much came down to, we still had to pay rent over there. We were robbing Peter to pay Paul. As far as business goes, you don’t have to be a rocket science builder to know that is bad news.”

Devoti noted that Newstead is not the only establishment that has closed or left the The Grove neighborhood recently. “We had the two most successful venues in The Grove. That restaurant [Newstead Tower], that building is on all the banners in The Grove. It is The Grove for all I consider it. Since Five has left, 13 to 15 places have closed from Kingshighway to Vandeventer on Manchester. That’s a serious number. If The Grove wants to succeed, it has to be full.”

What does please Devoti is what he and his team accomplished at Newstead during its near three-year run. “We introduced something that was never in that neighborhood – that was never in this city. We were the real gastropub of this town. We researched it. We did our due diligence on it. It was ‘the place.’ I don’t think you could find the food that we did there, food-wise as local product. You can come to Five for the burger or pastrami at lunch, but that’s not every day for lunch and dinner like at Newstead pub.”

With the closing of his upscale English-style pub, Devoti called his bistro on Daggett Avenue the future for him and his family. He cited excitement for the future, namely for things such as continued local sourcing of fresh meats and produce, along with beer, scotch and wine dinners, and the artisanal breads made by in-house boulanger Alex Carlson (“This is the future of bread,” Devoti said, noting that Five’s breads are on the tables of a few other eateries in town). Five serves lunch Thursday through Saturday, and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.

Want to bid farewell to the end of a St. Louis first? The last day that Newstead Tower will be open is this Saturday. Apart from the regular menu offerings, Devoti will be whipping up some old Newstead faves like pastrami sandwiches and lamb burgers. “Those are things that we did all the time that people loved,” Devoti said.

All of our coverage of Newstead Tower Public House

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