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Monday, August 18, 2014

Chef Chat: Lassaad Jeliti Is Spare No Rib's Resident Mathematician

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Lassaad Jeliti of Spare No Rib | Jennifer Silverberg
  • Lassaad Jeliti of Spare No Rib | Jennifer Silverberg

Barbecue and tacos together under one roof may not seem to add up, but mathematician-turned-restaurateur Lassaad Jeliti found the common denominator. "It's all street food," he said back in March of his inspiration for Spare No Rib (2200 Gravois Avenue; 314-202-8244). Obviously, he was on to something -- Zagat recently named Spare No Rib one of the 15 Hottest Barbecue Joints in America.

See Also: Critic's Notebook: Inside Lassaad Jeliti's Beautiful Mind

Jeliti took a break from serving up his Tunisian-inspired Mexican-American food to share his thoughts on the St. Louis food scene, his daily rituals and his love of all things bitter.

What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? I am an obsessive upcycler. It's how we've furnished and decorated Spare No Rib.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Reading Tunisian newspapers online.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Controlling time.

What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? The use of locally grown organic produce and free-range meats in restaurants is a very positive change. Being a Campari lover, the swing toward bitters in the St. Louis cocktail scene has been great.

Who is your St. Louis food crush? Chop Suey -- best Chinese food you can find.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? Ben Poremba, owner of Olio and Elaia -- our culinary-secret origins are very similar. We're both from North Africa.

Name one ingredient that best describes you. Bacon. I work well with others.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say? It is the best it has ever been, and it is only getting better with talented newcomers flooding the scene with creative and imaginative new concepts and dishes.

Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. White chocolate.

What is your after work hangout? Home, with Heather and our dog, Cooper.

What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? I am a chocoholic (bitter dark chocolate) and love Campari & club soda.

What would be your last meal on earth? A dark chocolate and almonds bar.

Follow Cheryl Baehr on Twitter at @CherylABaehr. E-mail the author at

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