The TT 46

Gerard Craft

Niche, Pastaria, Taste by Niche and Brasserie by Niche, St. Louis, MO
Photo: Greg Rannells

Why he killed it in 2015: Seasoned St. Louis chef Craft finally walked away from the James Beard Awards this year with the Best Chef: Midwest medal around his neck. No chef could be quite as deserving for this regional reign, considering all ingredients at his flagship Niche come from a radius shorter than the drive from NYC to Boston. Rather than act as a limitation, this allows Craft to soar with ingredients like homegrown canola oil and miso made with Missouri soybeans. With the upcoming fast-casual Porano and a Nashville outpost of Pastaria slated to open in 2016, we see him only going up from here.

How would you describe your food? "Modern Missouri. We've always maintained a focus on close relationships with local farmers and purveyors, but along with our team of executive chef Nate Hereford and executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn, Niche has undergone its most transformational period this year to date. We instituted a program this year (Niche's 10-year anniversary) to be 100 percent sourced from Missouri and some surrounding areas of Illinois and Kansas. All ingredients come from within 150 miles of the restaurant."

What's your signature dish? "Our egg dish: a custard of Missouri maple vinegar, roasted shiitake mushrooms and pearls made from Missouri trout garum that we serve in an eggshell. Also, people love our Dia's Cheese Bread. It's a take on pão de queijo, which is inspired by my Brazilian childhood nanny."

Who is your food god? "Jacques Pépin, because he's a complete ninja as a chef, and he's managed to have a real life, which most of us struggle to figure out how to do."

Do you have a secret talent? "I used to be a snowboard photographer."

Thin or thick burger? "Thin patty: better char-to-beef ratio."

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