Central Table Food Hall (23 South Euclid Avenue; 314-932-5595) is one of our favorite restaurants of the year -- and that's largely because of executive chef Nick Martinkovic. He took what could have been an insane concept (a food court?) and made it chic, delicious and convenient all at the same time. So why is he bowing out less than a year into Central Table's Triumph?
"It was never the intention for me to stay on. I thought two years would be the longest," Martinkovic tells Gut Check, "and then the opportunity with Blood & Sand came a long and I really thought that was a good opportunity for me. I'm leaving Central Table in a good place."
"The other reason being that between me and the owners and the investors -- where as I see the full potential of what Central Table could be, we have some creative differences as far as that goes," Martinkovic says. He will be leaving at Central Table until December 31, when he'll replace Chris Bork at members-only restaurant Blood & Sand (1500 St. Charles Street; 314-241-7263). Martinkovic says he learned some invaluable lessons at Central Table though, like operating on a very large scale without the food becoming a watered-down version of what he intended.
"The tight-knit back-of-the-house, the amazing family here, all the cooks we've had from day one -- that's the best thing I'm leaving behind," he says. But then, Blood & Sand offers its own unique model of dining as well. Martinkovic will be creating his own menu, but he is going to consult with outgoing executive chef Bork.
This does mean, though, that his food will reach less people, since the whole cachet of Blood & Sand is that not just anybody can dine there. To that end, Martinkovic is thinking about doing some prix fixe or tasting menus open to the public on Sundays, when the restaurant is normally closed.
"After speaking with [owners] TJ [Vytlacil] and Adam [Frager], they're both very young and hungry guys, and I'm looking forward to creating with them and seeing what we can do together to keep building Blood & Sand and possibly talk about new venues in the future," Martinkovic says.
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