Chef Brandi Artis is excited to show off her Creole cooking skills at 4 Hens.
Chef Brandi Artis gets asked the same question over and over again: What is it like to work with your wife? And even more so, what is it like to work with your wife, dear friend and her wife? She doesn't hesitate to share how well things have gone since the four friends and partners started collaborating on 4 Hens Creole Kitchen (3730 Foundry Way)
"Actually, it's been really great working together," Brandi says. "You're friends, so you continue to work through the hiccups of never having a restaurant before this. No one else has ever worked in food before, but Brittany [Artis] and Ebony [Evans] are foodies, and Brittany has been along for the ride and had been my sous chef as long as we have been together. She's always by my side helping out, so I am definitely blessed to have a great wife and teammate."
Artis, her wife Brittany, and their couple friends Brittany Gardner-Evans and Ebony Evans were inspired to create the Black and queer-owned 4 Hens, which opens today inside the Food Hall at City Foundry, when all four were looking for a change in both their careers and their residences. Prior to moving to St. Louis last year, the Artises were living in Chicago, where Artis was running a successful catering business, while Gardner-Evans and Evans resided in California. As their households grew to include young children, both families felt that they wanted to relocate somewhere in the Midwest that was both a good place to raise their kids and start a business.
Artis puts a modern twist on classic Creole flavors.
St. Louis ticked all the right boxes, not only for its family-friendly reputation but because the friends all had connections here; Evans originally hails from St. Louis, and Brittany Artis and Gardner-Evans met in the Gateway City while playing professional football for the St. Louis Slam. The hospitality industry also made perfect sense for their endeavor, thanks to Artis' extensive culinary background and experience running her catering company. After much discussion, the friends coalesced around a concept that would build upon the popular Creole brunches Artis used to offer as part of her catering company. From that idea, 4 Hens was born.
"This is my own modern twist on classic Creole flavors," Artis says. "I'm not doing gumbo or jambalaya or what people expect. For example, I'm doing a succotash soup that has the hearty flavors of gumbo; you can add anything to it, but I am trying to give Creole food a little bit of a twist and a different edge to it."
Artis draws upon both her extensive culinary background and Black-Lebanese heritage to create 4 Hens' distinctive dishes. After attending culinary school when she was in her 20s, the chef worked in the industry in Kansas City for several years before leaving the business for Chicago and the retail world. After she got pregnant with her and her wife's first child, she decided to stay home with her little one while also doing some catering and pop-up events. When the four friends decided to move to St. Louis to open a business together, it would make sense that they would use Artis' cooking skills as the backbone of their endeavor.
4 Hens is the latest addition to the Food Hall at City Foundry.
Those skills are on full display at 4 Hens, where Artis has created a menu of "Starters," "Mains" and "Sweets" that include such dishes as shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, three varieties of Po'Boy sandwiches and "Slapp'n Shrimp," a sauté of shrimp and Creole spices garnished with remoulade sauce.
The four partners are not the only ones in on the culinary action, however. Their four children, all under five years old, are also contributing to the venture with their lemonade company, Little Chicks.
"I came up with the idea when we were looking for a way to fundraise last summer," Artis says. "We figured, let's start a lemonade company for the kids that will be theirs to have; it will teach them entrepreneurship and ownership and work ethic. All four are ambassadors for Little Chicks."
Artis believes that 4 Hens' connection to family and foundation of love and friendship will be the keys to the restaurant's success, and they are looking forward to be a vibrant part of the City Foundry Food Hall — and have a great time while they are doing it.
"This is very fun for us to do," Artis says.
4 Hens Creole Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day but Tuesday and Sunday. Scroll down for more photos of 4 Hens.
Little Chicks Lemonade has been a way for the 4 Hens kids to get in on the fun.
4 Hens offers a variety of Po'Boy sandwiches, including the blackened shrimp version.
Fried green tomatoes are a 4 Hens specialty.
Little Chicks Lemonade is brought to life by the 4 Hens' children.
4 Hens is now open inside City Foundry.
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The 4 Hens are friends first and business partners second.
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