Evy Swoboda, Alejandra Fallows take on new roles in key Niche Food Group restaurants
As Niche Food Group looks toward warmer weather and an increasingly vaccinated clientele, the company has been making big moves to ensure it’ll have a strong team of central players ready to take its restaurants to new heights. Recent additions to Niche include two Sauce Magazine Ones to Watch: Alejandra Fallows, who has taken over as beverage manager for Pastaria and Pastaria Deli & Wine, and Evy Swoboda, who has assumed the role of executive chef of Brasserie by Niche.
Swoboda comes on board after two-and-a-half years running The Last Kitchen; when Covid-related closures last year brought on management changes, she decided to leave the downtown St. Louis hotel to spend more time with her family. But when Niche reached out to her, she decided it was time to get back in the game. “I was happy to go back for [Niche Food Group owner] Gerard Craft. I worked at Pastaria for five years,” Swoboda explained. “I worked my way up there and left as chef de cuisine.”
Craft is just as excited as Swoboda about her return to the restaurant group. “We worked with Evy for a long time, and we know how talented she is. We hire talent more than anything,” he said. “She’s got an amazing attitude, and she’s an incredibly talented chef.”
Though Swoboda describes herself as more Italian-oriented, she’s eager to continue mastering the art of French cuisine at Brasserie. “I’m kind of learning as I go right now, which is how I do things,” she said, adding that she’s already got a lot of specials and ideas in the works, but that she’s also sensitive to the fact that Brasserie’s longtime customers expect to see their favorite dishes on the menu. “We have a lot of regulars because of our classic dishes, but we’re working on a lot of spring changes to other menu items – running more specials, trying to get used to what the new normal means for service. We’re gearing up for a really busy summer,” she said.
Across town, at Pastaria, Fallows is looking to continue the natural wine-oriented conquest that previous beverage director Matt Bone took up, while adding her own ideas into the mix. Previously the bar manager at Chandler Hill Vineyards, Fallows is excited to get back to work after a long battle with Covid, which she said started to subside when she recently got the vaccine. “I’ve had Covid for about ten months,” she explained. “I actually got the vaccine on Saturday; Tuesday, it was like a switch was all of the sudden turned off. It was the first day I didn’t feel sick from Covid.” She said the Pastaria crew has been supportive of her during her first few weeks with the company. “Niche and Gerard and everyone have been so absolutely wonderful, knowing I was coming in still healing from Covid,” she added.
“Ali’s awesome, so we got lucky with the timing,” Craft said. “I love natural wine, and especially at Pastaria, it brightens up with young natural winemakers in Italy; at the Deli, we have stuff from California and France, and we’ll keep with that mission.” But Fallows is already plotting to make her mark. “I’d like to expand the program to keep up with what the current overall trends are in the wine world right now,” she said. “Definitely a focus on those pet-nats, but a lot of pop culture and hip hop music and movies influence what wine is being consumed at the time, so I want to get more into what the worldwide influence on the wine world is and spread out the program a little more.”
On that note, Fallows said the beverage program will have a greater focus on Italian culture. “At the end of the day, the culture is about having something that everyone can enjoy on the table. Making it approachable for everyone,” she said. “It’s going to be really essential in 2021 because people are so deprived of community.” She said Pastaria aims to further develop its cocktail menu this spring, with a special emphasis on non-alcoholic cocktails as well as drinks using cordials and shrubs. “We’re definitely going to bring back some cool, traditional Italian cocktails,” she said.
Going forward, Fallows wants the drink and food menus to work together in more of a symbiotic way. “I think we’re definitely going to be highliging more creative and daring specials this year. That’s something that [executive chef Brian] Moxey and I wanted to collaborate on too, getting more wine that’s more pairable and balances out the food,” she said. “We’d like to see the two programs really balance each other out. The energy here is crazy right now, and it seems like the creative juices are flowing. It’s a really cool vibe.”
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