by Cheryl Baehr
When Nate Hereford finished college, he did what any social science graduate would do: He got a restaurant gig. Now, the former anthropology student satisfies his intellectual curiosity through food as chef de cuisine at Niche (7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-773-7755). On its face, the life of a culinarian may seem far removed from the Ivory Tower, but listen to Hereford speak about his life in the kitchen, and it sounds like an academic exercise. "Right now I am really into the way we are conceptualizing dishes and ideas," he says. "We are adding building blocks of repertoire to a growing field of knowledge."
Hereford took time away from his studies in gastronomy to chat with Gut Check about his thoughts on the St. Louis dining scene, as well as his mad banjo playing skills.
See Also: Inside Niche in Clayton
Who is your St. Louis food crush? Berger Bluff Farms. They grow consistently beautiful, incredibly delicious produce.
Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? Sarah Osborn, pastry chef at Niche. Her desserts are focused and delicious. Plus, she's super great to work with!
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? With spring and stuff popping out in the woods, I really like finding things in the woods, whether it be wild herbs or mushrooms. I think the hunt and search for the stuff is indicative of my personality. Pus you also begin to realize how much work and effort is put into attaining food product.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say? Forward motion. We are pushing forward and not looking back.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. This is an interesting question. I have an extremely open mind when it comes to cooking and I don't think that there are things that shouldn't be allowed in the kitchen. However, then I think about things like high fructose corn syrup. I don't think that should be allowed anywhere.
What is your after work hangout? My house, enjoying time with my family and dog.
What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? A well-executed cheeseburger. And bourbon.
What would be your last meal on earth? Oysters and fried chicken.