Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Andrew Ladlie Finds the Beating Heart of the Tiny Kitchen at Sassy JAC's

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Page 3 of 3

The bar inside Sassy JAC's | Jennifer Silverberg
  • The bar inside Sassy JAC's | Jennifer Silverberg

Ladlie departed Annie Gunn's to take what he calls a "big gamble," helping Mike "Talayna" Faille open the restaurant that would become Frontenac Grill. Not long after Faille passed away in October 2011, Ladlie's relationship with the restaurant ended. He declines to talk about the specifics except to note that it was a "good learning experience."

With Frontenac Grill behind them, the Ladlies worked to open Sassy JAC's. Nine months after it opened, Ladlie tells me the restaurant remains a work in progress in both concept and execution.

"We caught ourselves in an identity crisis last fall," he admits. "We see all these places [in Soulard]selling booze and doing that hustle, packing them in, day in and day out. We got to chasing that beer and that bar dollar. There's a time and a place for all that, including here. I'm not opposed to the large bar crowd, but we want to cater more to the restaurant."

Some of the changes are minor, but significant: better silverware; nicer window fixtures; covered menus instead of sheets of paper and a chalkboard on the wall. More crucially, Ladlie will expand the menu both in size and scope.

"We're going to go a lot deeper South as we go forward," he says. "I think we're ready for that next level of production, the next jump in bringing in ingredients. We're going to do a lot more stuff that's unique to us."

"I think learning how to manage my time as a small business owner has been the main thing that has held me back," Ladlie elaborates. "You work so many hours as a small business owner, you forget about what you opened the business for. Then you get caught up... 'What if I try it and lose a bunch of money?' So I haven't been as aggressive. I've got all that under control now. It's worked itself into quality system."

The new menu is still a work in progress, but among its dishes he mentions chitlins and a fried beef-tongue sandwich. Ladlie remains conscious of his kitchen's small size, though. While for the first time since Sassy JAC's opened he is not constantly training someone to assist him, he knows he can't try to do too much.

Referring to the beef tongue that is braising in the kitchen as we talk, he says, "If it starts selling like mad, I can't risk putting it on the menu and not being able to keep up with it."

I suspect the sandwich will sell like mad. And I have no doubt Ladlie will once again meet the challenge.

This is part one of Gut Check's Chef's Choice profile of Andrew Ladlie of Sassy JAC's. Part two, a Q & A with Ladlie, will appear Wednesday. Part three, a recipe from Ladlie, will be available Thursday.

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