After attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Chef Brian returned to his hometown of St. Louis to work on his six-week externship for a local Chef who had also graduated from the Culinary Institute of America a few years prior. This partnership grew a lifelong friendship with Chef Marc, who would later become Brian’s business partner in successful restaurants.
In 1999, Chef Marc asked Brian to head the kitchen of their newest restaurant, Shiitake, a Pan Asia-themed restaurant in Clayton, Missouri, that was a hit from the moment the doors opened.
With menu creativity, Brian showed his ability to focus on any cuisine and to do it with talent and love. His extensive ability hits all ranges, from Asian, Italian, and American fare to butchering and charcuterie excellence.
Along with working in the kitchen, Chef Brian has also been a strong presence in the front of the house, creating relationships with the customers on a nightly basis, working with representatives for the local beers, spirits, and wines, and teaching the staff about his dishes, so that knowledge runs throughout all the members of the restaurant.
The future is open for this Chef that keeps moving forward and insists on being part of the time’s newest waves.
The Q & A
Q: What’s your favorite food/menu item?
A: I think my favorite menu item would have to be the Dry aged Meatballs. It’s a simple dish, but it describes what we are about. It’s a taste of the dry aging process without committing to a big steak.
Q: What is it like to work with friends and family?
A: At times, it can be a challenge. Working with your wife and heading to the same house after a busy night is sometimes tricky. But overall, we all work well together, and it’s great to know everyone is on the same page and we all have each other’s backs.
Q: What is the most gratifying aspect of owning a restaurant?
A: Being a chef and seeing and hearing how much someone enjoyed a dish you came up with or prepared is pretty gratifying. I also love to see customers continue to come back. It lets us know we’re doing things right.
Q: What challenges do you face?
A: Currently, staffing is the biggest challenge. Finding quality family time while working at and owning three restaurants is also difficult.
Q: What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
A: Anytime I can spend time with my three daughters is fun! Going out to eat, traveling, or just watching them do what they enjoy is enough for me.
I also enjoy running. It helps clear my head and gives me a “runner’s high.”
Q: What inspires you to cook?
A: It would have to be the incredible products we work with. When farmers or purveyors bring in something so perfect and beautiful to look at, you almost don’t want to mess with it at all. This includes fresh produce, like vegetables, fruits, seafood, and the 103s and striploin we dry-age.
Q: How do you cater to a variety of diners? What options do you provide for different tastes?
A: This is not easy. It is a very meat-forward restaurant, but we try to balance it with seafood and vegetable items. As a chef, you must be flexible with diners. For instance, many people are currently looking for gluten-free options. So, I try to ensure there are several gluten-free options available.
Q: What was your first job?
A: I worked at a hardware store while in high school. I tried to stick to the simple things, like stocking shelves and making copies of keys. I was not much help with electric or plumbing.
Q: What did you think you’d be doing when you were younger? This? Something else?
A: I didn’t know what I wanted to do in grade school, but I was always drawn to the kitchen. My mom is an excellent baker, and we always had dinner on the table every night when I was young. I took on a prep-cook position by peeling apples for pie and potatoes for mashed potatoes. As I grew older, I also enjoyed cooking dinners for my family.
My dad was a banker, and I enjoyed business classes in high school, so for a little bit, I thought I would go into sales or something like that. I tried that in college for a couple of years but ultimately decided to attend culinary school.
Cleaver & Cocktail
Cleaver & Cocktail is an American-fare restaurant that offers creative craft cocktails, delectable dinners, and an unforgettable atmosphere fueled by the owners’ dedication and love for this St. Louis establishment.
Call us today at (314) 530-9700 any time after 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday to book a reservation or come on by if you’re in the neighborhood. We can’t wait to see you!