Brian Moxey Journeys from Starry-Eyed Young New York City Cook to Executive Chef of St. Louis' Hottest Restaurant

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Brian Moxey, executive chef of Pastaria in Clayton | Ian Froeb
Brian Moxey, executive chef of Pastaria in Clayton | Ian Froeb

Moxey departed Craftsteak because he wanted to work on more refined food as opposed to the order-a-steak-get-a-steak approach. He found a position at Insieme, a new upscale Italian restaurant from chef Marco Canora.

"Insieme is the Italian word for together," Moxey says, "and there were old-world classics [on one side of the menu] and then kind of a interpretation thereof on the other side. That was an amazing experience. I thought I'd already learned how to push hard and work harder, and then I went there and really had to reboot the way I was thinking and how to approach food.

"Marco was very involved in the kitchen," he continues. "He spent less time at the pass, dictating orders and finishing plates and stuff. He would be back in your ear at your station. He was very, very hands on. Just because of what he wanted that restaurant to be."

Here Moxey experienced his first taste of big-time success: "We got a Michelin star. That was kind of the moment [when we said], 'Man, we're doing this.' It was a really tight-knit, competitive group of cooks. We would push and feed off each other."

Canora departed Insieme (the restaurant has since closed), and when he learned that Moxey was looking for a new position, he hired him at his Italian restaurant in the East Village, Hearth. Here, thanks to a series of personnel shifts, Moxey found himself in his first real position of authority, and over his three years at the restaurant he would eventually rise to the position of sous chef.

"It was lot," he says, "but again, it taught me how to push more and do more and get through mountains of work. I got a lot more comfortable with whole-animal butchery and making pasta by hand and stuff like that. It turned out to be a great time. I wasn't sleeping much, but it was good."

In the meantime, Moxey's wife, also a Sikeston native, had given birth to the couple's first child, a daughter, and the family faced the challenge of whether to try raising her in New York City: "Strollers and subway stairs are not friends."

Moxey already knew Niche's reputation. He'd eaten there several years before, and in packing to move to St. Louis found his menu from that night, on which he'd scribbled his notes about the meal. Gerard Craft's new Pastaria project jibed with the love for Italian cuisine that working with Canora had instilled in him.

"It's the Italian sensibility, the way they approach food...and dining also. I like the family [aspect] -- even if you're not part of the family, it's very welcoming. That's very appealing to me."

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