If the St. Louis food community gave out an award for "Mr. Congeniality," Ivy Magruder would be the hands-down winner. The Gamlin Whiskey House (236 North Euclid Avenue; 314-875-9500) chef may work at hip whiskey bar, but he is the kind of guy who's more comfortable chatting about his kids.
"We're never going to have the kind of money where we can travel the world, but my wife and I want to expose our kids to other cultures," he says. "Every month we pick a different country and learn everything we can about it -- where it is, the history, the food. Then we cook a big dinner based on what we have learned. It doesn't always turn out great, but we have a good time."
Magruder took some time away from this culinary world tour, as well as Gamlin's expansion into the adjacent space on Euclid Avenue, to share his thoughts on his rituals, trends and the local dining scene.
What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? Father of three wonderful children [Casimir, Constance, Cash] and husband of one beautiful woman [Sarah]. (Sarah said that was a nice answer but a boring one. She said, "Tell them how you fart in bed while you are asleep." That's Sarah, keeping it real.)
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Since the restaurants require a lot of time, I am constantly texting/calling Sarah, my wife. The kids and I talk every day after school just to touch base. I like hearing the good/bad/ugly of everyone's world. Sometimes I feel like I am one of few people that loves their life. You will never hear me make jokes talking about wanting the kids to go back to school after summer is over. I love spending time with them. As far as Sarah goes, she is my best friend. I actually like her. Weird, I know. A man that likes his wife?
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? We literally just had this conversation at dinner the other night. Either flying or the ability to freeze time. Sometimes I just want to slow it down and enjoy it a little more.
What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? With the opening of Gamlin Whiskey House, I think that it is cool that people are embracing the flavor profiles of whiskey, bourbon and Scotch. Gone is the perception that old rich men are drinking whiskey. Young, old, male, female, we see everyone of all cultures and economic ranges enjoying/experiencing how delicious and fun the whiskey ride can be. The other thing that I have noticed is more and more guests are talking openly about supporting local restaurants/business. That is a great feeling, to be part of the community in that way.
Who is your St. Louis food crush? John Perkins at Juniper. I am looking forward to working with John with some different charities events that we are doing down the road. He really seems to understand what guests want and what it means to be hospitable.
Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? Gilberto Espanosa, sous chef at Gamlin Whiskey House. Gilberto has been the driving force behind lots of different kitchens in St. Louis for several years. It is now his time to shine. Anything good that is going on in St. Louis dinning scene, odds are Gilberto had been a part of it in some way. He is like the Kevin Bacon of the St. Louis culinary scene: "7 Degrees of Gilberto Espinosa."
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Salt. I try to be a flavor enhancer, just like salt brings out the flavors of others. Other people might say I'm just "salty."
If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say? Arrived. For years I kept hearing about the young and up-and-coming culinary city. I really feel that there is a lot of wonderful restaurants that are here, and we are just adding on.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. Liquid smoke.
strong>What is your after work hangout? My bed.
What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? Gin. Although I don't feel too guilty.
What would be your last meal on earth? Seafood. Just mounds and mounds of seafood. All different kinds.