When you've worked in some of St. Louis' most venerable kitchens -- Monarch, Harvest, Terrene -- such as chef Brian Hardesty has, you could be excused for sticking with what you know. After all, if you're privy to a winning formula, why not take the easy route and open a place that replicates past successes?
But Hardesty is not one to phone it in. Gut Check e-mailed the brains behind Element (1419 Carroll Street; 314-241-1674) -- named one of our favorite restaurants openings of 2013 -- to hear his thoughts on the St. Louis food scene and a few other tidbits. His answers were short -- but to the point.
What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? I have no response to this question.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Coffee.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? The ability to have an intelligence quotient so far above that of a genius level that this ability can let me gain psychic abilities (psychokinesis, telepathy, etc.) and resist both mind control and other psionic attacks.
What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? Collaboration.
Who is your St. Louis food crush? Michael Petres (executive chef at Brasserie by Niche (4580 Laclede Avenue; 314-454-0600)).
Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? John Perkins (chef and owner of Juniper (360 North Boyle Avenue; 314-329-7696)).
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Saleratus.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say? Thriving.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. Truffle oil.
What is your after-work hangout? Planter's House!
What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? Coca-Cola.
What would be your last meal on earth? A steak.