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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Blue’

The Scoop: Nick Blue leaves post at Sardella

Monday, April 17th, 2017

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Nick Blue has left his executive chef position at Sardella.

“We wish Nick all the best of luck in the future and thank him for his time with our Niche Food Group family from Brasserie to Sardella,” said Niche Food Group owner Gerard Craft in a statement. He will announce a new executive chef in the coming weeks.

Blue helped open Sardella, the Italian-inspired restaurant that replaced Niche, in late 2016. He has worked at Niche Food Group eateries starting in 2009 with stints at Taste, Niche and Brasserie.

Blue said the two chefs saw the kitchen headed in different directions.

“I don’t really have a next step yet. I’m just going to enjoy this first week and take it easy and get physically and mentally rested, and we’ll go from there,” he said, adding that he intends to stay in the St. Louis area.

 

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 1 p.m. April 17 to include comments from Nick Blue. 

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Related Content
What I Do: Nick Blue of Sardella

Best New Restaurant 2017: Sardella

Sneak Peek: Sardella in Clayton 

 

Extra Sauce: Top 10 Scoops of 2016

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

From big chef changes at Niche Food Group to new taco restaurants in Kirkwood and steakhouses in Sunset Hills, here’s the dining news you were most excited about this year.

Don’t miss out! Follow Sauce Magazine on Facebook and Twitter to get The Scoop on the latest St. Louis-area restaurant news.

 

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1. The Scoop: Kirkwood to see new taco restaurant

2. The Scoop: Owners of Sugarfire Smoke House to open burger joint this fall

3. The Scoop: Catrinas opens in Edwardsville

 

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4. The Scoop: Jimmy’s on the Park closes after more than two decades

5. The Scoop: Joey B’s fourth location to open in April

6. The Scoop: Twisted Tree to open in Sunset Hills

 

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

8. The Scoop: Old Standard Fried Chicken to close

9. The Scoop: Two Plumbers Brewery & Arcade to open in St. Charles

 

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10. The Scoop: Firecracker Pizza and Beer to open in The Grove

 

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10 Best New Restaurants of 2016

Extra Sauce: Top 5 Dishes of 2016

Extra Sauce: Top 10 Sneak Peeks of 2016

Best New Restaurants: No. 1 – Sardella

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened:St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

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{ from left, executive chef Nick Blue, chef-owner Gerard Craft and general manager Chris Kelling } 

 

You don’t close the restaurant that just won you a James Beard Award – unless you’re Gerard Craft. He closed Niche one year after winning Best Chef: Midwest. St. Louis expects new concepts from Craft, but it was another thing entirely to eliminate his first restaurant and the namesake of Niche Food Group to try something new. Sardella had a lot to live up to.

So what kind of place is Sardella? “That’s the toughest question,” Craft said. “I think it’s our restaurant … [We’re] getting to have fun, getting to cook the food we want to cook.” It’s a place of freedom – even improvisation – for a team nationally famous for precision and adherence to Niche’s restrictive Missouri-only sourcing.

Sardella’s concept is more suggestion than mandate: food shaped by Italy, rather than Italian food. That may seem like semantics, but the freedom is in the phrasing. “It’s a slight direction,” Craft said. “Sardella is influenced by Italy, but it’s not straight Italian. Honestly, it would confuse many Italians. My greatest example is the green bean dish. It’s green beans on garam and roasted garlic custard with crispy garlic and Calabrian chile vinaigrette. It’s a dish that’s so Italian ingredient-wise, and so un-Italian any other way. When you eat it, it feels Southeast Asian.”

Italian, Southeast Asian, Missourian – one bite of this shockingly rich and savory vegetable small plate and you won’t care how it got here. Green beans (or the charred squash version now on the menu) never tasted so good. Same goes for the thinly sliced bavette steak: We don’t care why it’s topped with miso butter, we’re just glad that it is. Or the marinated sunchoke with a tender, acidic base joined by rich prosciutto and a kick of jalapeno – don’t ask questions, just eat. In this dance of Italian plates moving to various Asian, African or Mexican beats, diners have as much fun as the kitchen.

 

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{ miso-ricotta ravioli with orange, pepitas, brown butter and tarragon }

 

“At Niche, we were the special occasion restaurant, the nicest restaurant in town,” said general manager Chris Kelling. “But here, we just want to be the most fun.”

Even on a Monday night, the energy is high. The music is louder, the drinks better, the clientele hipper. It’s too lively to feel formal. It feels cool.

Talk to any Niche veteran on Sardella’s team, and you can see that relief, like loosening one’s tie at the end of a long day (literally – servers now wear black jeans and chambray shirts). The whole space has undergone a parallel stylish, casual makeover. The long wood bar is flanked by bookshelves. Servers weave between closer, smaller tables. The once cavernous ceiling was lowered over a wall-length butter-soft leather banquette. There are hanging plants, sardine tins and a general sense of lightness: blond wood, white walls, smiling faces.

With Craft, executive chef Nick Blue and executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn in the kitchen we expected the food to impress, but it’s the atmosphere, the posture of Sardella that’s most striking. This is a restaurant full of people doing what they love in the way they want to do it.

“It sounds cliche, but I get to throw a party seven nights a week,” Kelling said. “I enjoy doing it. I feel that energy transfers to the team, to the guest, and it’s all reciprocal.”

We feel it, too. The intimidation of fine-dining service (that sense of attempting a dance to which many don’t know the steps) is gone from Sardella, with no great loss. But anyone who’s ever hosted knows how hard it is to make a party look this effortless.

“We don’t have rules for rules’ sake, because then it stops being a service,” Kelling said. “Everything is about the flow for the guest. It’s got to be smooth and have precision. … If we just create a platform for the guest to enjoy themselves, then we do a good job.”

This is what Sardella is about: a good time. Craft has been around long enough to know that when the kitchen isn’t having fun, no one is. “That’s Gerard’s strength: He cares. He listens to feedback,” Kelling said. “If you don’t care – if you’re not listening – then the emperor has no clothes.”

We’re happy to report Craft is resplendently dressed at Sardella. We went to Niche when we wanted to feel fancy. We go to Sardella when we want to have fun – as often as we can.

 

More about Sardella

• Sneak Peek: Sardella in Clayton

• What I Do: Nick Blue of Sardella

• The Scoop: Gerard Craft to close Niche, Sardella to open

Readers Choice 2015: Chef of the Year – Gerard Craft

The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award

Photo by Greg Rannells

Sneak Peek: Sardella in Clayton

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

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Get ready, St. Louis. After five months of anticipation, Sardella will open doors for its first dinner service tomorrow, Nov. 2, pending final inspections today. Niche Food Group chef-owner Gerard Craft said Sardella will start with dinner tomorrow and then breakfast service, which will debut Thursday, Nov. 3.

Sardella moves into the former home of Niche, Craft’s flagship restaurant, which he closed in June after 11 years. The announcement came as a surprise to many; Craft had just won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Midwest in 2015 for his work at the fine dining restaurant.

Niche was lauded for its focus on highly regional, Missouri-sourced cuisine. At Sardella, Craft casts off the hyper-local limitations in favor of Italian-inspired dishes. While local purveyors are still widely used, Sardella’s dishes feature previously prohibited ingredients like seafood, lemons and chocolate. “I just want people to have fun again,” Craft said. “I want a noisy restaurant with people having fun.”

Craft also traded in Niche’s white tablecloths and subdued fine-dining demeanor for warm white walls, light wood, intricate blue-and-white tile work and cheery golden-yellow banquette seating. And the bar now seats eight and runs half the length of the restaurant, allowing for a much larger beverage program than Niche’s. One thing that hasn’t changed is the open kitchen visible through the pass, where customers can watch the busy crew under the direction of executive chef Nick Blue and executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn.

 

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{Sardella executive chef Nick Blue, executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn and Niche Food Group chef-owner Gerard Craft}

Sardella will offer breakfast and dinner service, with lunch to follow a few weeks later. Craft said he wanted to bridge the gap between heavy American breakfast (think pancakes and eggs or biscuits and gravy) and unhealthy fast-food options. Sardella will offer a European-style breakfast service with pastries and a coffee program (Sardella’s baristas trained under Sump Coffee owner Scott Carey.). Customers can snack on a cinnamon roll and espresso at the bar, grab a vegan yogurt parfait to go or snag a seat for a smoked salmon English muffin or avocado toast.

Dinner service will feature more than a dozen shareable small plates, a handful of pastas and four heartier meat entrees. “The way (my wife Suzie Craft and I) like to eat these days is having a few small plates,” he said, citing favorite menu items like arugula salad, gnocco fritto and warm dinner rolls (“like crack”).

Sardella’s bar program will be far more expansive than Niche’s offerings. Under the guidance of general manager and beverage director Chris Kelling, the bar will offer six draft beers and a handful of large-format bottled options. Niche Food Group veterans like David Greteman and Kyle Mathis have designed the house cocktail list, and Kelling himself oversaw the wine selection, which Craft described as fun, approachable and “not so fussy.”

Sardella will be open for breakfast Monday to Friday from 7 to 11 a.m., and coffee and pastries will be available until 3 p.m. Dinner service will be offered daily at 5 p.m. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect when one of the most anticipated restaurants of 2016 opens doors:

 

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More on Gerard Craft and Sardella

• The Scoop: Gerard Craft to close Niche, Sardella to open
• The Scoop: Gerard Craft to open second Pastaria in Nashville
• The Scoop: Nate Hereford to exit Niche, Brasserie’s Nick Blue to take the helm
• The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award
• What I Do: Nick Blue of Sardella

-photos by Michelle Volansky

What I Do: Nick Blue of Sardella

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

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Gerard Craft’s text message asked for a vegetarian dish, done Niche-style. Unbeknownst to Nick Blue, he was in the preliminary stages of a job interview for executive chef of Sardella, the concept that will replace Niche, Craft’s first restaurant and the one that earned him St. Louis’ first James Beard Foundation Award. Blue certainly has the resume to head up Sardella when it opens later this month. He began working with Craft in 2009, bouncing around between Brasserie, Niche and Taste before working his way up to executive chef of Brasserie. Here, Blue shares what he’s learned so far in the Niche Food Group.
 

First week on 
the job
“I was walking through the (old Niche) dining room carrying two cases of eggs by the handles and … one bottom fell out and the whole case just breaks in the middle of the dining room. … I was like, ‘Oh God, this is my first true professional kitchen.’”

From-scratch kitchen
“(Brasserie) was a well-oiled machine already. … To start over from scratch – it’s been a little nerve-wracking, to say the least. I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what to do every single time, but I try to make that call and ask for forgiveness later.”

Attitude adjustment
“The whole kitchen culture (at Sardella) is changing. … We can go back to having fun and start cooking the food that’s why we started cooking. It’s going to be a little more casual (than Niche).”

Most important meal of the day
“I’m a breakfast fan, but not at breakfast hours. Recently the Sardella kitchen management team has been hooked on Original Pancake House in Ladue. We get the breakfast sandwiches to go. It’s on sourdough with egg, ham and I add American cheese.”

His sweeter half
“When (my wife, Sardella pastry chef Sarah Osborn and I) cook (at home), we both do it. I’ll do something savory, and she’ll do something pastry. … I have a huge sweet tooth. The two things I usually ask for are tres leches cake or a strawberry-rhubarb pie.”

Retirement plans
“My dream retirement job is to have a taco stand on the beach – somewhere in Key West probably. … I came up with that big plan after a few drinks at Big Star (in Chicago). I was eating their fish tacos and I was like, You know what? I’m going to live on a beach one day and retire and make fish tacos. And Sarah wants to do adult popsicles.”

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

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

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