Monday, February 8, 2016

Chef Will Volny of Bixby's Has Props for St. Louis: "We All Work Together"

Posted By on Mon, Feb 8, 2016 at 7:20 AM

Chef William Volny now leads the Bixby's kitchen. - CASSANDRA LU
  • Cassandra Lu
  • Chef William Volny now leads the Bixby's kitchen.

It wasn't food or cooking that first attracted Chef William Volny of Bixby's (5700 Lindell Boulevard; 314-361-7313) to the restaurant business. "One of my first jobs was working in the restaurant industry as a busser and dishwasher," he recalls. "I just fell in love with the atmosphere. There was just such a family aspect to it that I was immediately attracted to."

Volny was just fifteen years old when he had this revelation, and the restaurant in question was a Mexican spot in his native Michigan. He worked only a few hours during the school year, but begged for extra shifts when summer came around. "I just caught the bug and asked for as many shifts as possible," Volny says. "That's when I started working the line."

After graduating high school, Volny enrolled in culinary school in Chicago, where he dove into the Windy City's thriving dining scene. There, he met Nick Luedde, and the two instantly clicked. When Luedde moved to St. Louis to open the Libertine, he recruited Volny to come with him. "He needed someone to help out, so I just up and moved," explains Volny.

The move would have a profound impact on Volny's culinary philosophy. At the Libertine, he worked under acclaimed chef Josh Galliano, who helped Volny refine his skills and increase his food knowledge base. He also gave him a philosophical framework for approaching the job. "Josh just has such a passion for everything about cooking and the industry," says Volny. "He's the person who showed me that a restaurant is a living, breathing thing."

Volny's time in St. Louis has also taught him the value of having a restaurant community that builds one another up rather than the cutthroat, competitive scene in Chicago. "In Chicago, there are just so many restaurants, and in some ways, it seems like people need others to do bad so they can make it," Volny explains. "Here it's not like that at all. We all work together and want each other to do well."

Volny took a break from his new gig as executive chef at Bixby's, the well-respected restaurant at the Missouri History Museum, to share his thoughts on the St. Louis food and beverage community and explain why, for his last meal, the food will be irrelevant. 

What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
That’s a tough one…I’m pretty open and honest with everyone I meet.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
Tasting the mise en place on each station.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Super speed – think of all of the tasks that I could accomplish in one day!

What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
I’m very passionate about locally sourced ingredients. It’s been great to see young farmers work with restaurants to grow product that we are interested in cooking. When there’s passion on both sides of the table, it creates a great relationship.

Who is your St. Louis food crush?
Luke Cockson (of the Libertine). Outside of Galliano, Luke is (in my opinion) one of the most knowledgeable chefs in St. Louis. Every time we see one another, it’s like listening to a podcast about food history and menus around the world. It’s incredible.

Who’s the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene?
I’m really looking forward to what Tommy Andrew is going to do at Randolfi’s. He’s a great chef and is very passionate about the food he delivers.

See also: Tommy Andrew Loves Liver — But Hates Truffle Oil

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Pork. Working under (Galliano), I learned a lot about charcuterie and found that I really loved the versatility of pork.

If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?

Baseball scout, for sure.

Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen?

Stock bases. House-made stock is always best.

What is your after work hangout?
Stella Blues. It’s one of the best bars in the city. Shots of soju, great food and a great staff.

What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
I’m a big fan of bar food. A great beer with a plate of wings and sports on TV is an ideal meal for me.

What would be your last meal on earth?
To me, a great meal is an experience — it isn’t only about the food; it’s also about the people you’re dining with. My last meal would be with people I care about — people that I can have a great conversation with.

We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at cheryl.baehr@riverfronttimes.com.



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