Agi and Aaron Groff of 4 Seasons Baked Goods & Catering, Part 2



This is part two of Holly Fann's Chef's Choice profile of Agi and Aaron Groff of 4 Seasons Baked Goods & Catering. Part one is available here. Part three, a recipe, can be found here.

  • Holly Fann

Did your family cook when you were a child? Agi Groff: My granny is Hungarian, so we ate a lot of Hungarian foods. Whenever you would go over to her house, she always had baked a roulade -- something simple, like a sponge cake with jam, or a strudel.

How old were you when you started cooking? Agi: I was fourteen and worked front-of-the-house in a café in Germany.

Aaron Groff: I was a busboy.

What was your first cooking job? Aaron: I was a fruit cutter at the Doubletree Hotel.

  • Holly Fann

Did you attend culinary school or college? Agi: I went to school in Germany and got a master's in teaching with a specialty in languages. I then went to the Culinary Institute of America.

Aaron: We met when we were both enrolled in the associate program at the CIA. Then a few years later, we decided to get our bachelors' from the CIA as well.

What do you eat? Agi: Fresh foods. A lot of items from the local farmers' markets. A lot of stews in the winter.

We'd be most surprised that you eat _______. Aaron: Calf's heart.

Agi: We have one in the freezer right now! You want it?

What do you cook at home? Aaron: Stews, salads, a lot of pasta. And, of course, baked goods.

Three favorite restaurants in St. Louis (besides yours)? Aaron: Stellina Pasta, Local Harvest, Yia Yia's.

Local chef who most impresses you? Aaron: Jamie at Stellina Pasta.

Favorite restaurant elsewhere? Aaron: Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan.

Your favorite food city? Agi: Munich. Or maybe Berlin?

Aaron: Yeah, they have great international food in Berlin.

Favorite recent food find? Aaron: Durum wheat flour. It's used a lot in Indian cuisine, and it's super-tasty in bread.

Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Aaron: Butter, homie.

  • Holly Fann

Favorite local food find, and where do you get it? Agi: We get these beautiful eggs from a family farm in Boschertown.

Five words to describe your food? Agi: Fresh, tasty, simple, real...

Aaron: ...Phantasmagoric. Just kidding. Hopefully, addictive.

One food you dislike. Agi: Olives.

Aaron: Shrimp.

One food you can't live without. Agi: Chocolate.

Aaron: Is beer a food?

What ingredient will never be allowed in your kitchen? Agi: Corn syrup, and hydrogenated shortening.

  • Holly Fann

Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more _______. Agi: Bakeries! Neighborhood bakeries.

Your best tip for home cooks? Agi: Always add a pinch of salt to your baked goods.

Aaron: Don't underbake! Don't be afraid to add color to your breads.

Your favorite after-work hangout? Aaron: Our home, with Alina, our baby, and Maja, our baby dog.

Favorite kitchen tool. Agi: Aaron has a little spatula he calls "my precious."

Aaron: My precious, or my bench scraper.

What's next for you? Aaron: World domination!

What inspires you? Agi: Going to the library to read old cookbooks can be such a huge inspiration.

Chefs who inspire you? Aaron: My wife.

Agi: Jacques Pepin. He makes simple, beautiful food, he doesn't jump on his cutting board. Mark Sanfiippo from Salume Beddu as well. He started out with a German literature degree and was a writer and worked his way up, taught himself. And he's super-humble.

Favorite cookbooks? Agi: Wolkemmer Chef, Baking with Julia.

Aaron: The Joy of Cooking. The recipes work. Charlie Trotter's cookbook -- man, those recipes don't work, but you know every time you cook something out of Joy, it's going to work.

Proudest professional moment? Agi: Opening the bakery.

Aaron: Opening the bakery, having our baby and doing it all, just the two of us.

Favorite music to have in the kitchen? Aaron: I like techno in the morning to get things going, and then NPR in the afternoon to chill out

What's on your pizza? Aaron: Goat cheese.

Agi: I like pineapple and ham.

What's in your omelet? Aaron: Goat cheese. Goat cheese on everything, please!

Agi: Fresh herbs.

What are you drinking? Aaron: Right now I'm drinking Oktoberfest.

What's the most surprising food you've eaten? Aaron: I've recently started liking Brussels sprouts. And that sauerkraut roll we had in Germany was yummy.

Most difficult lesson you've learned in this business? Agi: Long, long hours.

Aaron: It's a lot of work, man.

When did you know for sure that the chefs life was for you? Agi: When I was living in New York and catering.

Aaron: My first job -- cutting fruit at that Doubletree Hotel.

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