Christopher Lee's career has taken him from fast-food to four-star, giving him the ability, after 24 years in the business, to choose his ventures. With Cafe Ventana, Sanctuaria, and Chuy Arzola's, he's able to focus on high-quality food that's accessible.
"It doesn't need to be over the top. That separatism was definitely noticeable coming up through the ranks," says Lee. "My parents couldn't come eat at many of the restaurants I worked at. My grandparents were like, 'You paid how much for this? You're out 30 bucks on something you're gonna eat?'"
With Cafe Ventana's relaxed New Orleans vibe, Lee can make down-to-earth fare like muffulettas and fresh beignets that's just as tasty as higher-end eats.
Muffuletta Serves one
1 Muffeletta loaf (Lee gets his from Black Bear Bakery) 2 ounces Swiss cheese, sliced 2 ounces Provolone, sliced 3 ounces Volpi Mortadella, sliced 3 ounces Volpi Genoa salami, sliced 3 ounces Volpi Hot Capicola, sliced 2 ounces Jardinière (Lee uses Boscolli olive salad)
Assemble sandwich, heat lightly.
Beignets Makes ten pounds of beignet dough. Recipe can be divided.
24 ounces water 16 ounces evaporated milk 7.6 ounces liquid eggs 6.6 ounces salt 1/2 ounce fast-acting yeast 7 ounces granulated sugar 5 pounds all-purpose flour, divided 11 ounces shortening Oil for frying Powdered sugar
1. Combine water, milk, eggs. Whisk in salt, then add yeast and sugar.
2. With mixer on low, incorporate half of the flour into mixture. Add shortening and continue mixing lightly. Add remaining flour and continue mixing.
3. Let dough rest for 8 hours to rise.
4. Liberally flour a work surface. Roll dough to 1/4" thickness, being careful to not overwork the dough. Cut into squares.
5. Drop beignets into hot oil, being careful to not overcrowd. Flip when bottom is lightly golden. Remove from oil and drain.
6. Top with sifted powdered sugar until it's piled high enough to touch the tip of your nose when you take a bite.
Cafe Ventana 3919 West Pine Boulevard 314-531-7500
Sanctuaria 4198 Manchester Avenue 314-535-9700
Chuy Arzola's 3701 Lindell Boulevard 314-644-4430