This is part two of Robin Wheeler's Chef's Choice profile of Robin Murphy of Baileys' Chocolate Bar, Rooster and Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar. Part one is available here; part three, a recipe, can be found here.
Did your family cook when you were a child? If so, what meals stand out? My mom was a great cook and did the majority of the cooking in our house. We ate a lot of comfort foods and very small portions. Chicken fricassee over converted rice with a lot of fresh lemon stands out as my favorite. My stepdad was a master pancake maker on Saturday mornings and always made the batter the night before. I have very good food memories.
How old were you when you started cooking? I was a fairly hyper child, and I remember being allowed to "help" when I was around eight years old. I don't think I got to help too many times after that.
What was your first kitchen job? My first kitchen job was when I was eleven years old. I resided in a group home and they offered jobs to all of us so that we could have some spending money. I made $1.25 an hour scrubbing pots and pans in the dining-hall kitchen. In hindsight I wonder about the child labor laws.
Did you attend culinary school or college? I didn't attend culinary school, but I did attend college. I was very fortunate to have two apprenticeships in California for baking and pastry and that was like taking a crash course of what you might learn in culinary school; I loved it.
What do you eat? I tend to gravitate towards vegetarian foods: hummus, veggie burgers, grilled veggies, etc. I love rice, pasta and potatoes.
We'd be most surprised that you eat _____. I eat very few sweets, with the exception of hard candy. I don't crave cake, ice cream or doughnuts. Sad but true.
What do you cook at home? I'm really not home that much, but when I am it's usually comfort food. I love chicken and dumplings, English muffin pizzas, any kind of rice dish and sandwiches.
Local chef who most impresses you? Christopher Lee. He juggles three menus and restaurants and does it very well; I could learn a lot from him.
Favorite restaurants elsewhere? Jack's Urban Eats in Sacramento; Postrio in San Francisco; Lombardi's Pizzeria, Little Italy.
Your favorite food city? San Francisco.
Favorite recent food find? If you drink a Red Bull while eating pretzels, it tastes like the Frankenberry cereal from the '70s.
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Kosher salt.
Favorite local ingredient and where you get it? Mushrooms from Ozark Forest Mushrooms, Missouri Ozark Big Springs region. They're beautiful and fresh with every delivery.
Five words to describe your food? Simple. Approachable. Tweaked. Substantial. Craveable.
One food you dislike. Seafood is not my friend.
One food you can't live without. Pasta.
What's the first rule for your kitchen staff? Less is more; don't make it complicated. That goes for the food, as well as how we interact with one another.
What ingredient will never be allowed in your kitchen? Liquid smoke.
Culinarily speaking, St. Louis has the best... Environment for going out on a limb and trying new twists on food. St. Louisans will brave a new concept and embrace it. They tend to be loyal followers, once you show them that you're trying to do right by them.
Culinarily speaking, St. Louis has the worst... Interpretation of a realistic portion size. The Midwest is known for hearty dishes and large portions. It's hard to dissuade folks from that mindset. We make everything from scratch for all of our restaurants. We use quality local meats, local and imported cheeses, locally grown produce, etc. My California background has been ingrained in me, and while the portion size may be perceived as petite, the flavors and quality are significant.
Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more... Street food vendors. Tamales, noodle carts, popcorn and hot peanuts, walk-up pizza-by-the-slice joints.
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