Chef Rex Hale of Boundary.
Chef Rex Hale of Boundary (6300 Clayton Road; 314-647-7300)
has cooked all over the world — Dallas, Ojai, Antigua, South Africa — but his culinary roots are firmly planted in Marshfield, Missouri.
"My mom's family had a farm in Marshfield, and we would spend every summer working there," Hale recalls. "From a young age, I was milking cows, slaughtering chickens, picking vegetables from the garden, and going down to the pond to collect frogs for frog legs. It's where I grew up."
Hale and his family were able to spend those lengthy periods at the farm because of his father's job as a high school chemistry teacher. At first, Hale thought he would follow in his dad's footsteps and pursue a career in science, but he quickly discovered that he needed to find his own path. "In school I loved chemistry and biology — because of my dad," says Hale. "The further I got in school, though, I felt like I was disconnected from the rest of the world.
Realizing that the kitchen was his calling, Hale boldly marched into the iconic Tony's. "I figured that if this is what I wanted to do, why not go to the best," he says. He told the owners his career plans, got the job, and eventually moved on to a string of high-profile gigs — alongside such revered chefs as Paul Bocuse, Emeril Lagasse and Stephen Pyles.
After twenty years away from St. Louis, though, Hale felt the call to return home.
"I had three young kids, and I wanted to raise them here," says Hale. "I thought I'd surely be able to get a job somewhere, but then I came back and was blown away by places like Baetje Farms. Every day, I'd be more and more impressed with the ingredients and commitment to quality here. I still am every day."
Hale took a break from the Cheshire Hotel's new restaurant, Boundary, to share his thoughts on the St. Louis food and beverage community, his in-home taqueria, and why standing on his head daily is non-negotiable.
What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
I love to teach children about food and cooking.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
Stretching every morning for a lifetime, and doing yoga and standing on my head. Drinking a green breakfast drink followed by black coffee.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
To fly, to be able to travel quickly and visit all the places I like to see.
What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
The most positive thing in food and beverage is the truly amazing selection of high-quality local food and beverage ingredients now available.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
My food crush is the St. Louis community of food bloggers who are able to eat, photograph and write about what they enjoy.
Who’s the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene?
Mark Hinkle at Olive + Oak. He is such a great person and restaurateur.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Fresh ginger root. It's a little spicy and very flavorful with lots of layers.
If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
Biological research or farming.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
I love food, and I really do not dislike any ingredient, except green bell peppers which I really do not care to eat.
What is your after-work hangout?
Home. I'll be there eating tongue, potato or chicken tacos or quesadillas.
What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
Pistoles Bittersweet Chocolate — 72 percent, right out of the box.
What would be your last meal on earth?
Whole fish on a beach, cooked over an open fire and either roasted or stewed.
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