Dale Beauchamp came to cooking through the process of elimination. "I didn't know what I wanted to do and went to college for a little bit of everything," says the chef de cuisine at Half & Half (8133 Maryland Ave., Clayton; 314-725-0719). "I had a short list of things that I wanted to do for a career and worked my way down them. I probably should've started with cooking because that's what ended up working out."
From the outside, though, he appeared to have it together. He had a successful career in retail, working for Brown Shoe Company (now Caleres). For eight years, he managed one of their busiest stores in the area, all while feeling a pull toward something different. Culinary school was always in the back of his head, and he finally enrolled in Forest Park's program with plans of leaving the shoe business behind.
Worried that he wouldn't be able to get a job following school, Beauchamp stayed on with Brown and eased himself into the kitchen working weekends at Kayak's Coffee. There, a friend introduced him to Mike Randolph, who needed help with some pop-up dinners. "I didn't even know Mike at the time. I just showed up and started helping," Beauchamp recalls. "Eventually, he hired me on at MEDIAnoche as a line cook. He had someone quit and promoted me to sous chef after about four or five months. I had to learn quickly — probably too quickly."
Beauchamp stayed on with Randolph after MEDIAnoche changed to Little Country Gentleman and worked for him for three and a half years. He left for a year and a half to work at Gringo, and has now returned to Randolph's empire, with the task of refreshing the Half & Half menu. "I'm happy to be back because there is so much room for creativity here," he says. "I have the freedom to go crazy."
Beauchamp took a break from making Half & Half's S'mores French toast to share his thoughts on the St. Louis restaurant scene, his food crushes and why it doesn't matter what's served at his last meal.
What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
I'm pretty shy around new people so I'll take a minute to open up. Ask anyone who has known me for a while, though, and they know I can be pretty outgoing too.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
My morning coffee. When service starts at 7 a.m., you need that pick me up.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
The ability to slow down time. Time management is one of the most important parts of working in a kitchen, and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a cook or chef who didn't wish they had a few extra minutes every day.
What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
Nobody in the industry ever rests! Everyone is constantly pushing to improve their restaurants, open new concepts, and be more collaborative as an industry. And it's growing beyond our immediate borders with a St. Louis brand of hospitality moving out to other regions like Kansas City, Chicago and Nashville.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
Chef Brian Hardesty and Joel Crespo from Guerrilla Street Food. Watching them create and grow a brand over the years while doing their own food has been pretty inspiring.
Who’s the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene?
Corey Smale and Bob Brazell. I can't see any scenario where Good Fortune won't be a huge success. The food they're talking about doing, that's the type of food I'd like to eat every day.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Beer. You can drink it, cook with it. Sometimes it's mellow, sometimes it's a little more crazy.
If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
Anything where I can work with my hands and be creative. I love working with tools, so maybe some sort of contractor or architect.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
I honestly can't name one. I'd be doing myself and the people I work with a disservice if I had that mentality.
What is your after-work hangout?
My house! My fiancé and two year-old son love that I work as a daytime chef now. I get to spend my evenings cooking for my family, playing in our backyard, doing bedtime stories. When we do get out, though, you'll find us at Quincy Street Bistro. The kitchen consistently kills it over there.
What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
I'm totally a salty snack guy. Give me a bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos and don't expect to get it back.
What would be your last meal on earth?
The food is secondary to the people you share it with so as long as it's with my family and friends. I'd love a huge spread of classic Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. Rice and noodles for all!
We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]