"I've known people for quite a few years who didn't realize it wasn't my real last name," says Tommy Andrew of Randolfi's (6665 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-899-9221)
about his nickname. "I tell them my real one and they say it doesn't sound right, and all I can think is, 'Who has salami as a last name?'"
Andrew credits chef Josh Galliano with dubbing him "Tommy Salami" back in their days at the late, great Monarch. "We're both Irish-Italian. He started calling me it one day and it stuck like glue," Andrew recalls. "Seriously, people don't even realize it's me when I say 'It's Tommy Andrew.'"
In fairness to Galliano, he couldn't have bestowed Andrew with a more appropriate moniker. The St. Louis native grew up on the Hill in a large Italian family, and got his love for cooking from his uncle Gianni who is also in the restaurant business. His first restaurant job was at the Italian mainstay LoRusso's on Watson, where he saw a job in the kitchen as a way to bring home the big bucks — a fact he now laughs at.
"I was bussing tables and one day saw the dishwasher had a check for $300," Andrew explains. "I was fifteen and thought, 'Man, he's rich!' I asked to wash dishes and did that for about a month. They saw I was a hard worker so they threw me on the line. I just started advancing from there."
Following LoRusso's, Andrew worked at a few top restaurants in St. Louis — Monarch, Prime 1000. His most unique gig, however, was as part of the culinary team at a restaurant on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Andrew loved his time in Arizona, but he admits, "I'm a homeboy. I love St. Louis and missed my mom. I just wanted to come back."
When Andrew heard about the chef de cuisine position at Randolfi's, he suspected it was the right fit for him but wanted to make sure. "Whatever job I took next I knew I wanted it to be a head chef position and I didn't want to settle," Andrew explains. "So I worked there for a month for free."
Andrew wanted to learn everything he could about Randolfi's before committing to, what he hopes will be, a long-term gig. For two days every week, he showed up at the restaurant to get to know the food, the kitchen, the staff and, and owner Mike Randolph himself. He was sold.
"It's been really great working for him," Andrew says of Randolph. "He's a great chef — both food smart and book smart. He's inspired me to think of things I've never thought of. Working for him has made me a better chef."
Andrew took a break from developing Randolfi's new menu to share his thoughts on the St. Louis food and beverage scene, why you'll never find truffle oil in his kitchen, and why Patrick Swayze's character in Roadhouse
is the coolest guy on the planet.
What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
I didn’t go to culinary school, and I just jumped into this industry at a young age. Everything that I learned was from trial and error to get where I’ve gotten now.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
I’m sure this goes for a lot of folks in the industry, but a triple shot of espresso.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
That’s a tough one. I’d say that I would want to live my life like Patrick Swayze’s character Dalton from Road House
. I could roundhouse-kick people, but I could also seduce women.
What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
There’s a great sense of chef camaraderie in St. Louis right now. Even the people that I’ve worked with in the past have supported my new job at Randolfi’s. They support what we’re doing. It’s all about getting a little help from my friends.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
Hana Chung. She works at Byrd & Barrel, and I’ve worked with her in the past at Juniper as well. She can throw down in the kitchen better than 90 percent of the dudes I know. She’s a badass.
Who’s the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene?
Brad Bardon, next door at Publico. As a diner, he completely destroyed me —- it was one of the best meals that I’ve had in St. Louis. The spotlight is one him and the restaurant right now for a reason.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Liver. Because I love to drink and I love the flavors.
If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
I would probably be a conservation agent for Missouri. I love the outdoors and I support what they do at the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
Truffle oil. It’s an ingredient to make crappy dishes appear to be fancy.
What is your after-work hangout?
The Whiskey Ring on Cherokee – they have really great cocktails and selection of whiskeys. I’m definitely a whiskey drinker.
What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
A slinger from Courtesy Diner — goes hand and hand with whiskey.
What would be your last meal on earth?
My mom’s lasagna.