Chef Jennifer Newbold

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Chef Jennifer Newbold

I can't say enough about a woman with a strong presence in a commercial kitchen. They're just better at a multitude of things, & they don't get enough credit in a misfit, male-dominated industry. Even so, Jennifer was a special case...

A culinary misfit in her own right, Jennifer lead a team of assholes (including me) to nightly victories over the hoards of people that we'd entertain. We were creating and prepping a new, large, fresh seafood menu daily, with ingredients from all over the world. We were no sissies. With Jennifer at the helm, we were gods. 

We were doing the best seafood in the city. Of course, we were. She made the most beautiful food any of us had ever seen, staff or guests.

 "Make it happen!", is what she'd belt out from her gut when confronted with my excuses.

I remember her sweaty, red face in the middle of the rush. I remember how she impacted me, burning down every preconceived notion I had about food and dining. She put me on the spot on more than one occasion, always pushing, clawing, stabbing. She expected me to be at her level. I wasn't. Don't think I ever will be.

If you want to be the best, you have to surround yourself with the best. I did just that for over three years.  

She's world-class. If you don't know who she is, you will soon. 

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Chef Phillip Paris

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Chef Phillip Paris

After leaving the nest Will Thoms had made for me, I went to play with the big boys at the St. Louis Fish Market at the Embassy Suites on Laclede's Landing. One way or another, I was going to make my mark.

Shortly before my hiring, the hotel had brought on one of the hottest chefs out of the south side of Chicago to breath life into this high-end seafood restaurant. Phillip was a small statured Greek, but the type that would beat your ass with a lead pipe in his biker jacket if you put out some jacked-up crab cakes. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure he slammed me into a refrigerator once. Outside of work?... he could put Jameson down as well as he could cook. He had that laugh that got a room going, and the personality that you wanted to party with.

We would go to war for him.

Creative & intense, Phillip cut no corners, and taught me to do the same. He pounded relentless - almost religious - ideals & benchmarks into me for 4 years, expanding my wheelhouse 10-fold, never giving a damn about my blooming ego. He gave me opportunity, held me accountable, and took the time to mentor me into the chef I would become. He set the stage for the rest of my career.

I'll be forever in debt to a few people that changed my life, and Phillip Paris is at the top of the list.

"There's no such thing as a secret recipe. Fresh, quality product."

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Chef William Thoms

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Chef William Thoms

I could say that Will Thoms was the 1st chef to see potential in me, and invest his time into expanding my knowledge. Preparing me for the next level, I used to drive to his house in Highland with Aaron Dias to hang out, watch wrestling & learn how to make the next mother sauce. Will & his wife, Carla went out of their way to be hospitable, providing us dinner every night we would show. We were young and oblivious to the idea of helping with the cost of all those pork steaks, free-loading our way to the next class, and even TP'ing his house (it was totally Aaron & I, Carla).

Most people knew him for his jolly laugh (think Horatio Sans) & his strange way of always being able to squeeze through the cook line, regardless of his size. Through all our tough times at Pepper's Dining Company in O'Fallon, IL, he stuck with me, called me out when I dropped the ball, and gave me confidence (though some would call it arrogance) to get to the next level.

Tragically, Will passed away in September of this year. I had only recently begun to rekindle my relationship with Will before it happened. I had high hopes of inviting him to my 1st-ever restaurant "soft-opening" to show him how his investment paid off. 

As I type this, I'm cracking open a PBR for you, old friend. Miss you, big guy.

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