by Cheryl Baehr
Athlete Eats' (2837 Cherokee Street; 314-932-5566) humble lunch counter may seem like a world away from the gourmet kitchens of Monarch and Prime 1000, but executive chef Bob Brazell is quite at home in the place. After working in some of the city's high-end hotspots, Brazell was recruited by Athlete Eats owners Simon and Angelica Lusky when their prepared-meals business got too big for them to handle. The Luskys had just rented a storefront on Cherokee Street for its commercial kitchen, but the space's front area was tailor-made for a fast-casual style cafe -- and they wanted Brazell to run it.
Brazell took a break from serving up his hearty yet healthy cuisine to share his thoughts on the weather in St. Louis culinary land, his food crush and his secret life as a superhero.
What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? I'm Batman.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? I don't know if it qualifies as a ritual because there is no order to it, but I would have to say music. It's a huge part of my life. Most mornings I already know the first song I am going to play in the kitchen. When I get home I usually go straight to my record player. I even have a gramophone tattooed on my arm.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Moot point...I'm Batman.
What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? Collaboration. There are so many talented people in this city, and everyone loves to work together. It really shows the sense of community within our industry. You can always find something cool going on in our city whether it's a Kitchen Kulture or MOFU pop-up at Sump Coffee or someone working with the dudes at Strange Donuts. Everyone is always down to get creative and share what we do with our city.
Who is your St. Louis food crush? Chris Bork. I had my "wow" moment as a diner a few years ago at Blood & Sand when I had his "Vietnamese Pigs in a Blanket" dish. It was one of those dishes that was so damn good, I was upset that I didn't come up with it. He comes into Athlete Eats quite often, and I've gotten to know him a bit over the last couple months. He is a super nice guy, and I'm really excited to see what he does next.
Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? I am a little biased, but I would have to say my partner Simon Lusky. I have never met a more dedicated and motivated guy. He has so many ideas, honestly I can't keep up most of the time. I am lucky to be working with him, and I know he is going to do some really great things for our culinary scene here in St. Louis.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Pork shoulder. Tough as hell, but with a little time and love it's sweet as candy.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say?
It's like a 75 degree day in August. It's rare, brings a smile to your face, and you should get out and enjoy it.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. Yellow No. 5. I only like No. 4.
What is your after-work hangout? Civil Life Brewing Company. It's on my way home from work, and Jake and his whole staff are all amazing people. The fact that they make the best beer in town helps too.
What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? Red Hot Riplets. Even my guilty pleasures are local.
What would be your last meal on earth? I think the most typical response here would be "one of mama's home-cooked dishes." I definitely got my creativity and passion from my mom but not my cooking skills. Sorry, Mom. She is an amazing baker though. I think I would have to go savory for my last meal. I'd say my brother's kung pao chicken. It's not your crappy delivery stuff. He spent a lot of time in Asia, so it's legit. It's loaded with Szechuan peppercorns and huge chunks of scallions, so I'd be going out with a bang.