Photo by Nancy Stiles
Liz Schuster, center right, will handle the food at LouFest.
LouFest organizers warned Liz Schuster that it would take a special kind of person to handle the music festival's food offerings. "They didn't say crazy, but..." Schuster laughs as she trails off.
Indeed, the undertaking on which Schuster is embarking — the first time LouFest organizers have tapped the same person to handle all three of its culinary services — would be daunting to a lesser chef. But Schuster, a former chef at the Scottish Arms, best known for her movie-themed dinner company Tenacious Eats, is up to the challenge.
"I'm the queen of logistics," she explains. "I think my experience as a high-volume banquet chef helped to prepare me for this. Plus, with Tenacious Eats I've cooked in all sorts of crazy situations with every kind of special request you could imagine."
Schuster will be in charge of all of the culinary operations at the music festival that kicks off this weekend, with the exception of the Nosh Pit, the food court-style area available to fans. That means she'll be cooking for the bands, the crew and the VIP lounge. The menu she created is based around the cardinal directions, with North, South, East and West themes.
South offerings are based upon classic American Southern comfort food such as pork belly and New Orleans-style chicken wings. East stands for Asian-influenced items such as bahn mi sandwiches, while her Western menu will offer Mexican and Native American fare. Frozen desserts, such as honeysuckle popsicles and ice cream sandwiches, represent the North. All four themes will be served simultaneously in the VIP lounge while components of the menus will show up at different times for the band and crew meals.
"I thought to myself, "what would I want and need if I was going to an all-day concert," Schuster explains. "Especially one where I'd be imbibing quite a bit."
One thing Schuster did not want to do when coming up with her menu was to make St. Louis into a caricature. "We are more than toasted ravioli and mostaccioli," she says. "I didn't want to make a menu where it was like, 'Here is what we are about in St. Louis: fried ravioli and cheese that is one molecule removed from plastic.' Missouri is a linchpin for all different types of food. What I'm serving is more representative of who we are than all that."
Of course, what everyone really wants to know is whether or not Schuster has seen any wacky food requests from the bands. Unfortunately, she has little dirt to offer.
"You'd be surprised at how much bands are understanding at these types of events," Schuster says. "Outside of dietary restrictions, bands really welcome local stuff and are cool about it. They understand that we are making certain meals."
Still, Schuster doesn't hide her excitement when it comes to who she's most excited to cook for. "Billy Idol," she says. "If I see him eating my food it is going to be crazy."
Follow Cheryl Baehr on Twitter at @CherylABaehr. E-mail the author at Cheryl.Baehr@RiverfrontTimes.com.