I grew up in University City and was the youngest of four kids who were all adopted. I was lucky to have grown up in a tight knit family, partly instilled by the fact that family dinners were a nightly occasion. A mandatory time that no matter your plans for the day were you had to make, at 6pm every night. Going out to eat was reserved for birthdays or special occasions. As I look back on that time I realize how much those family dinners meant to me and how many memories are attached to them. From friends joining us, to holidays, to the stories and discussions about life that were shared, a lot went on around our dinner table. Our family dinner is something we continue to this day every Sunday. Cooking and having a place to eat is the medium that made all those memories possible. I’ve come to realize the importance of having a place to be able to sit, stop with whatever else is happening in life, and share at least an hour around a table with those you consider family.
As much as cooking was apart of my life it wasn’t until working at a deli while attending college in Colorado that I realized how passionate I was about working with food. I moved back to St. Louis and began my first job in a restaurant working for Chef Marc Del Pietro at Luciano’s Trattoria in Clayton, MO. After the first year of working salad and pizza stations I was offered the opportunity to open a small breakfast and lunch café in the building next door to Luciano’s. It was a place Chef Marc trusted in me to make the place my own and I was able to create daily menu specials and really have fun being creative with simple foods. I feel I owe a lot of the confidence I had to continue furthering my culinary career to the opportunity at Primo Café and getting to work with Chef Marc.
After at little over two and a half years of running Primo Café I moved to San Francisco, California to attend culinary school at The California Culinary Academy. First moving out to California I took up residence on my friends couch, Andrew Moore and Adam Smith. Andrew was one of my best friends growing up, living just a few doors apart. He is also an important team member in making Reeds American Table possible and will be handling the much needed office work. Adam is someone who has been a best friend since high school and whose wife is also coming on as an opening team member at Reeds filling the role of GM. After a month of living on their couch I found a job, moved into the cheapest place I could find in the city and began culinary school.
For the little over a year that I lived in San Francisco I worked at Waterbar Restaurant owned by Pat Kuleto and Mark Franz. I would go to school from 7am – noon and then head straight to work from 2-11. It kept me working in a kitchen 13-16 hours most days. Getting to immerse myself in a culinary destination like San Francisco was definitely a big stepping-stone in my pursuit to knowing that cooking was something I wanted to dedicate my life to.
After finishing the main course requirements for culinary school I applied for an externship at Niche restaurant back home in St. Louis, MO. After speaking with chef Gerard Craft and being accepted to do my externship at his restaurant I packed up and moved home to St. Louis. I began my 3 month externship learning the basics of what it took to make food on the level Niche was putting out. Within a few weeks was given the opportunity to fill a space on the line in the hot apps position. Within a few months I graduated up the line to fish cook and by the end my first year accepted a position as sous chef.
There was so much learned while at Niche it definitely can’t be summed up in a single paragraph. From having the chance as sous chef to learn the challenges of managing a kitchen, to understanding the delicate balance of flavors and textures, to pushing yourself to the point of burning out, to learning all the details that make a restaurant successful that have nothing to do with food or drink. Niche is where I became a chef. But most importantly is all the amazing people I got a chance to meet, work, learn and grow with while there. It is working for this company that I first met Summer Wright and Andrey Ivanov who would eventually become integral team members in opening Reeds. From this experience it became more and more clear everyday that being a chef was something I was determined to make not just a job but a career. I was able to dream bigger because of what I learned at Niche.
From Niche I was given the opportunity to take over as executive chef of Taste by Niche, a small plate and craft cocktail bar. Gerard Craft and Ted Kilgore started Taste as a small 18 seat craft cocktail bar in Benton park and eventually grew to a 60+ seat space in the Central West End. Ted ran the cocktail program and is hands down one of the best mixoligists I know. It made Taste one of the best places in the city if not nationally to get a craft cocktail. So stepping into a position where I had to create dishes that not only stood up to what Ted was doing but also the reputation that the Niche brand had established in St. Louis was definitely a scary thing. As scary of a proposition that it was it is what pushed me to grow a lot in a short period of time. Taste is where I began to gain my own identity as a chef. It is where I gained my own understanding of what flavors and food I enjoyed working with the most. In my three years at Taste I came up with a lot of dishes that I feel began to define who I was becoming as a chef. I really began to understand what kind of food I wanted to make.
Not only did I gain an understanding of the kind of food that I wanted to continue to explore, I also met tons of amazing people in food community that have all served as an inspiration for what I wanted to dedicate my life to. From meeting so many passionate chefs, mixologists, coffee producers, beer makers, servers, food writers, food photographers, restaurateurs, customers (not to mention my fiancé Morgan) – the list goes on of people I am lucky to have met who are dedicating their lives to seeing the food scene in St. Louis continue to grow. Being a part of this community there is constant inspiration to do better and push harder. It is because of being inspired by how much energy and support there is in this community that the idea of starting a place like Reeds is possible. I am not making this move of opening a place to only give a platform for myself to continue to grow but to also provide an opportunity for others I know to do the same. I hope to create a place that allows everyone who is apart of it to explore the thing they are most passionate about in this industry and help it grow. For everyone on the team at Reeds American Table this restaurant is about the continued growth of a food scene in St. Louis that we believe is just now starting to fully realize the potential of how much it can still grow.