Introducing Chef's Choice, a new weekly feature in which St. Louis-area chefs cook and discuss some of their favorite recipes.
didn't dream of a career in cooking. The 27-year-old studied to be a teacher and made it as far as student teaching. That career path ended when he called a student a douchebag, got punched in the face and was asked to leave.
What didn't work in the classroom works wonders in the kitchen. Gardner creates dishes as honest and unpretentious as he is. He handles managerial duties for Amalgamated Brewing's
the Rotten Apple
and the Stable
, but his real love is for the smoker and for the craft brews that's made Grafton, Illinois' Rotten Apple a destination for St. Louis beer lovers.
At home, Gardner's girlfriend, Kelly Schmickle
, claims he's the master of the hot sandwich. She wasn't exaggerating. My morning with Gardner started with thick slices of fried green tomatoes fresh out of the pan. The tomatoes had started to turn red, giving them an extra bit of sweetness. He then piled more of the warm, crisp tomatoes on toast with cheese, a mound of bacon and an egg over-medium for a breakfast sandwich that, on its own, would have kept me full and happy until dinnertime.
An avid hunter, Gardner tinkers with a lot of wild game in his kitchen. The night before my visit, he'd scored a bunch of rabbit livers from Kitchen Conservatory's Iron Chef
. While I devoured my sandwich, he went to work breading and frying the livers. Not that he'd ever cooked rabbit livers, but he couldn't resist the opportunity to give them a try.