I met with Rick Lewis, head chef of Quincy Street Bistro (6931 Gravois Avenue; 314-353-1588), early on a Monday afternoon at the end of February. We'd chosen Monday because it was Lewis' one day off, but when I arrived, I noticed that he was wearing a do-rag, and I suspected that, off-day be damned, he'd just been working in the kitchen.
Our conversation only strengthened my suspicion. Lewis is that dedicated to his craft.
We spoke first about his favorite meals from childhood, classic American comfort foods like his mother's fried chicken. When he mentioned that his paternal grandmother hailed from rural Missouri and "ate things like possum," I knew what I had to ask next. He laughed and muttered something about coming off as a hillbilly but answered the question -- if indirectly.
Have you ever eaten possum? I've eaten my fair share of squirrel and rabbit and things of that nature.
What's a typical meal at home for you? Right now it's not that fun because my wife and I have been dieting. Typically, I like using the grill a lot, so we'll usually do a vegetable and a starch and some type of grilled meat.
What's on top of your pizza? Mushrooms, cured pork products and tomatoes when they are in season.
What don't you like? Vegan and vegetarian food. It's the complete opposite of my style. I don't think I've met a vegetable or grain I don't like. I love kale. It's delicious. But it's even better when you cook it down with all sorts of bad stuff.
Any guilty pleasures? I'm a sucker for those buffalo-sauce-flavored pretzel nibbies. You set a bag of those in front of me, it's all over.
What your three favorite St. Louis restaurants, not counting your own? I've always been a huge fan of Kevin Nashan and Sidney Street Cafe. Not only is he a killer chef and restaurateur, but he's got a killer group of guys who work for him, and they do some knockout food. We always like bouncing around Vietanemese restaurants -- Mai Lee, Pho Grand. And then Gerard and those guys at Niche are fantastic. We do a lot of sandwiches, too. We go down to Blues City Deli a lot.
Which St. Louis chef most impresses you? Kevin Nashan. The way he does it, having the grow-room in Sidney Street's basement, the charcuterie, the garden out back. It's awesome. That's all the stuff I'd love to do.
And Josh Galliano. I owe him a lot: my education, everything. When I met him, I was not the cook I am now or the chef I am now.
Your favorite food city? New Orleans is awesome, and Chicago is fantastic.
Favorite restaurant elsewhere? I staged Cochon in New Orleans, doing production stuff. To be around that charcuterie and curing was pretty awesome, and the food was delicious.
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