If you haven't already read the news on Twitter
, STL Bites
or Sauce Magazine's blog
, one of the more buzzed-about rumors of recent weeks is now official: Gerard Craft of Niche
and Taste by Niche
is purchasing venerable Central West End French restaurant Chez Leon
(4580 Laclede Avenue
) and reopening it -- rather quickly -- as Brasserie by Niche
"We're hoping [to open] at the latest by November 1st," Craft told me
this afternoon. "All we're going to do right off the bat is a minor
cosmetic makeover, repainting the [Chez Leon] sign and some logo work."
The menu will be completely new -- though as the name might suggest, it will remain French. In charge of the kitchen will be Perry Hendrix, whom Craft describes as "a really, really cool guy." In fact, prior to moving to St. Louis to open Niche, Craft worked for Hendrix in Salt Lake City, and it was through this association that Craft met his pastry chef, Mathew Rice.
Brasserie by Niche will be open every day but Monday. It will serve only dinner at first. Craft foresees opening for lunch and, on the weekend, brunch in January.
This is the latest event in what has a very busy year for Craft. In May, he was one of five finalists
for "Best Chef - Midwest" in the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards. In July, he opened Taste adjacent to Niche, featuring cocktails from mixologist Ted Kilgore and a menu of modestly priced dishes.