What inspired you to become a chef?
I started working in the restaurant industry when I was 16. Throughout high school and college, I bussed and waited tables simply to earn extra money. It was in New Orleans, where I went to school, that I got my first cooking job at a made-from-scratch burger joint. We had a waiter who had been in the business for a long time, and he would come up to me during lulls and have me describe flavors to him. At first, it drove me crazy. But after a while, I started realizing how nuanced food can be, and how much goes into making a good meal. It was around that time that I realized how much I loved the environment of being in a restaurant. I love the smell, the pace, the constant buzz of activity. If there was anything I would be happy doing every day, this was it.
What is your background?
My first cooking job was flipping burgers and cutting french fries on Oak Street in New Orleans, LA. I was given the opportunity to work at a few sister restaurants that gave me a taste of finer dining and the atmosphere that comes with it. After I finished college, I moved back to St. Louis and attended the Culinary Institute of St. Louis at Hickey College. There, I met Chris Desens, who was an instrumental part in forming my understanding of what it really means to be a chef. He helped me find a job with Chef Dan Holtgrave at Old Warson Country Club, and that is where I really learned how to cook and work as a team to produce something that I found meaningful and important. I was eventually able to work my way up to a management position on the Garde Manger station, where I led a small team in producing all of the cold food for the kitchen. This experience got me ready to take on the management position I’m currently holding at R.T. Weiler’s.
At what restaurant can our readers taste your creations?
R.T. Weiler’s, 201 N Main Street, St. Charles 63301
What kinds of foods are you known for?
I love simple food done well, and R.T. Weiler’s is known for freshly-made comfort food. We want everyone to feel welcome. Whether it’s fried chicken or a killer reuben, we aim to satisfy your craving for that favorite dish that mom used to make. We also recently started a brunch menu. On Saturday and Sunday mornings you can come catch a soccer game or fuel up for holiday shopping with a hearty, homestyle breakfast.
What’s your specialty?
I still consider myself to be a student in the cooking world and strive to find ways to expand my understanding of different foods and cooking styles. And while I appreciate the craft of fine dining, my interest is in producing comforting, delicious meals. I believe that food should be familiar, and I want you to leave R.T.s happy and full.
What are the newest trends in dining?
This is a hard question to answer because by the time people read this article a new trend may be emerging. However, I think the move towards using fresh, local products underlies most of the newer trends. People enjoy having a connection with their food, knowing where it came from and the people that produced it.
Do you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share with us?
I would encourage people to find their favorite recipes and look deeper into them because understanding food goes deeper than memorizing some ingredients and measurements. Research the history of the dish, the science of why it’s made that way, and you’ll have an even greater appreciation for it. For example, I love sandwiches. Really, anything in a pile is good in my book. But I learned recently that they became popular in the 1700s by John Mantagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. He is said to have invented them so that he could eat dinner with one hand and not have to leave his gambling table. Food has history, and that’s part of the reason why I love this job.
Photo courtesy of Madison Thorn Photography