Courtesy of Amy Generally
Chef Amy Generally jokes that she can't seem to get out of the restaurant business no matter how hard she tries. "I've gone to school for everything from mortuary science to EMT training to environmental science and engineering," says the chef at Lilly's — Music & Social House (2321 Arsenal Street; 314-312-6398). "I've pretty much tried everything to get out of the business, and I just keep getting pulled back in."
Generally admits that her love of cooking makes her a willing captive. Her passion for food began at an early age. When she was about five years old, she often found herself in the kitchens of her mom, grandmother and great aunts, perched atop a stool and absorbing their knowledge before she even really knew what cooking was all about.
Once she was old enough to work, she picked up jobs in the restaurant business, honing her skills along the way. Generally enrolled in culinary school, but quickly realized that ten years in the restaurant business had already taught her much of what she needed to know. After one semester, she left school and opted for on-the-job training with Vail Resorts, where she cooked at some of the top ski destinations in the country.
But the Alton, Illinois native couldn't stay away from the Midwest for too long. After leaving Vail Resorts a few years ago, she enrolled in the environmental science program at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale to pursue her passion for sustainability.
Then she got the call from her old friend Kristen Goodman, who was about to open Lilly's.
"Kristen told me about twelve years ago that if she ever opened her own place, she'd want me to be the chef," Generally explains. "She stuck to that, so here I am back in St. Louis."
In addition to her cooking duties, Generally hopes to bring her sustainability philosophy to Lilly's — she's especially excited about the community garden across from the restaurant.
"We plan to use the garden to grow our own produce for the restaurant," she says. Additionally, Generally is applying to participate in Earthdance Farms' organic farming apprenticeship program. It's an exciting opportunity to meld her passions for cooking and sustainability. "It feels like it is all coming together," Generally says.
Generally took a break from the kitchen to share her thoughts on the St. Louis food and beverage community, the virtues of cloning, and the one thing you'll never find in her kitchen.
What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
I’m half African-American.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Cloning powers… I would clone myself multiple times so I could run my kitchen and go on vacation — all at the same time!
What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
The amazing collaborations I’ve seen between chefs, breweries, local farms, and other organizations in the industry.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
I love so many of the small local eateries like Blues City Deli, Lona’s Lil Eats and Little Dipper, that it’s hard for me to name just one food crush.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Bourbon, because I make everything taste good… or at least tolerable.
If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
I would be doing sustainable farming, especially teaching kids about environmental issues.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
What is your after-work hangout?
Home. Anyone in this industry knows you either go out to party, or you go home to crash.
What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
Chocolate malt from Crown Candy Kitchen.
What would be your last meal on earth?
Chicken and sweet potato waffles with a chocolate milk stout.
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