David Molina of BARcelona Tapas, Part 2

This is part two of Robin Wheeler's Chef's Choice interview with David Molina of BARcelona Tapas. To read part one, click here. Part three, a recipe from Chef Molina, is here.

Chef David Molina (left) at work in the tiny galley kitchen of BARcelona Tapas in Clayton. - Robin Wheeler
Robin Wheeler
Chef David Molina (left) at work in the tiny galley kitchen of BARcelona Tapas in Clayton.

Did your family cook when you were a child? If so, what meals stand out? We didn't do a lot of family cooking, because my mom was busy working. I remember my grandmother's homemade baked empanadas with pumpkin. To this day I can't make them as good.

How old were you when you started cooking? I got a late start cooking. I think I was in my late teens.

What was your first kitchen job? My first kitchen job was in a very small seafood restaurant, and I worked the pantry and washed dishes.

Did you attend culinary school or college? I didn't attend culinary school. I have been fortunate to work for some great chefs.

What do you eat? I eat everything. I'll try something at least once.

We'd be most surprised that you eat _____. I love white anchovies on my sandwiches.

What do you cook at home? I'm not home too often, but I find myself making a lot of braised chicken thighs with some sort of vegetables.

3 favorite restaurants in St. Louis, besides yours? Trattoria Marcella, Sidney Street Café and Black Thorn Pub.

Local chef who most impresses you? There are a lot of talented chefs in town, but I think the best are the ones that start with the best ingredients and apply the proper cooking technique and don't over-complicate food.

Favorite restaurants elsewhere? One of my favorite restaurants is Casa Tua in Miami.

Your favorite food city? Chicago.

Favorite recent food find? Padron peppers.

Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Quality olive oil and coarse sea salt.

Favorite local ingredient and where you get it? I get some really nice fresh pasta from a lady at the Soulard Market.

Five words to describe your food? Fresh, seasonal, colorful, minimalist and delicious.

One food you dislike. Tofu. I'll eat it, but it's not my favorite.

One food you can't live without. Bacon.

David Molina of BARcelona Tapas, Part 2
Robin Wheeler

What's the first rule for your kitchen staff? Work clean.

What ingredient will never be allowed in your kitchen? Anything that I would not be proud to serve to my own family.

Culinarily speaking, St. Louis has the best ________. mix of ethnic foods for being in the Midwest. People of St. Louis often take what we have for granted. I've lived in places where there are no Vietnamese restaurants or a good taqueria.

Culinarily speaking, St. Louis has the worst ________. nothing!

Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more ________. late-night restaurants.

Your best tip for home cooks? Don't be afraid. Yes, you are probably going to screw it up a few times. But learn from your mistakes and keep going.

Your favorite after-work hangout? I usually find myself at Mangia Italiano or the Jade Room [now called Barbarella] on South Grand.

One person, dead or alive, you'd love to cook for? Elvis. The later years.

Favorite kitchen tool. Fish spatula.

What's next for you? Keep learning, traveling and opening more restaurants.

What inspires you? The endless possibilities of food and the power to make people happy with it.

Chefs who inspire you? I've always admired Tom Douglas, Eric Rupert and Douglas Rodriguez.

Favorite cookbooks? A Return to Cooking, Devil in the Kitchen and the Culinaria series of cookbooks.

Proudest professional moment? I'm lucky to get to do what I love every day.

Favorite music to have in the kitchen? Anything Mike Patton, Fishbone and Mastodon.

What's on your pizza? Black olives.

What's in your omelet? Mahón cheese.

David Molina of BARcelona Tapas, Part 2
Robin Wheeler

What are you drinking? Ice cold PBR. No apologies.

What's the most surprising food you've eaten? An unidentified piece of pressed meat given to me by a woman at Seafood City on Olive. I still don't know what it was.

What's the best request you've gotten from a customer? Two eggs sunny side up for a guy's poodle on the patio.

Most difficult lesson you've learned in this business? There is no such thing as an easy day. Someone intentionally or not will try to rain on your parade. From staff to vendors to equipment to your own mistakes. Having to learn patience to deal with the problem at hand is the greatest skill to have.

When did you know for sure that the chef's life was for you? The first time I experienced the controlled chaos of a busy night. The sick rush you get from teetering on the edge of disaster and pulling it together to have a successful night. It's a crazy sense of accomplishment.

{To be continued...}

BARcelona Tapas 34 North Central Avenue, Clayton 314-863-9909

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