Jalea’s Andrew Cisneros joins The Tavern Kitchen & Bar in Valley Park as executive chef and partner
Andrew Cisneros of Jalea and Sanguchitos by Brasas has added to his growing list of responsibilities by taking on a new role at The Tavern Kitchen & Bar at 2961 Dougherty Ferry Road, Suite 101, in Valley Park. Cisneros joins The Tavern as executive chef and partner in the restaurant, a role that could lead to broader opportunities within The Tavern’s ownership group, OG Hospitality Group.
Named one of the city’s brightest culinary talents in Sauce’s Ones to Watch in 2021, Cisneros was originally brought on at The Tavern earlier this year as a consultant to work on the restaurant’s spring menu. OG Hospitality Group owner Brant Baldanza said the initial scope of Cisneros’ assignment was to come up with “five or six menu items,” but the conversation soon turned toward exploring a more permanent arrangement.
Baldanza praised Cisneros’ “unique” talent, but said he’s also a perfect fit to lead the kitchen at The Tavern. “There's so many times we've been looking for a chef and we’ve come up empty-handed,” Baldanza said. “He just wants to push the envelope, and I feel like that's the really cool part about Tavern – we always kind of wanted to be something different than what's out there.”
Baldanza added that the decision to appoint Cisneros was endorsed by the kitchen staff at The Tavern, many of whom have been with the restaurant since its very early days. “It's a tough group to break into,” he said. “They all said, ‘This is the guy. This is the guy we want to work with. This is a guy we want to learn from.'”
Cisneros’s immediate task at The Tavern is creating the spring menu. The classically trained chef said he’ll be drawing on French and Italian influences as part of a “significant” menu revamp. Cisneros added that the menu will also feature the kind of ingredients and flavor profiles found in Peruvian cuisine, although the Peruvian influence will be less prominent than at Jalea. Cisneros isn’t revealing too much about his plans, but he said that the new menu could feature foie gras, as well as Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese) sushi, and the brasas chicken that has become his signature. Another addition will be a tasting menu to be served at The Tavern’s chef’s counter, which Cisneros said could feature up to 10 courses.
Some favorite Tavern dishes will keep their place on the menu. “They’re bringing in a lot of amazing cuts of steak and very fresh seafood and lot of those things are going to stay on,” Cisneros said.
The new executive chef and partner has Baldanza’s full support as he embarks on reworking the menu. “It could be everything, it could be anything,” Baldanza said. “I would expect Andrew to be influenced by his own culinary background, and that's what I expect to see on the menu. I have not given him a single yes or no, I've given him, ‘This is you, and I back you up 100 percent.’”
Cisneros said he and Baldanza worked the Tavern role out so that he has time to oversee operations at Jalea and at Sanguchitos by Brasas. However, even when he can’t be around, he expects his other restaurants to continue to thrive. “We have an incredible team at Jalea,” he said. Cisneros’ sister and brother-in-law help operations at the St. Charles restaurant in his absence. “We’ve had the same culinary team from day one, so they've been killing it every weekend. And when we opened Sanguchitos, it’s the same thing,” he said. “It's been running on its own it's almost like these guys are kicking me out of the kitchen because they’ve got it under control.”
It's a measure of the trust Baldanza has in Cisneros that he has brought him into The Tavern team not just as executive chef, but as a partner in the restaurant. Baldanza said one of Cisneros’ most appealing traits in that capacity is his openness. “Not only does he have passion for what he's learned, but he's open for, ‘What do you think about this? What do you think about that?’” Baldanza said. “And he'll either tell you why not, in a nice way, or like, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea – let me do it this way.’”
OG Hospitality Group also owns The Corner Pub & Grill, which has three locations in the St. Louis metro area, and The Shack, which operates nine locations in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas. If all goes well, The Tavern could be just the scene for the first act of a partnership between a seasoned operator and one of the city’s most exciting rising stars. “He's got a concept idea, and I’ve got a concept idea,” Baldanza said. “We’re constantly talking about putting those two ideas together and coming up with a pretty badass idea.” Cisneros offered a similar teaser, while giving nothing away. “We’re looking to introduce new brands to the St. Louis scene,” he said. “But none I can reveal yet.”
Cisneros’ new menu will debut at The Tavern on April 17. “I’m really excited,” Baldanza said. “I just have to start working out now, so I can eat it when it comes out.”