Is St. Louis a True Food City?

tasteHaving found it via an online chef mailing list I’ve been on for over a decade, I’ve been on eGullet for a while now. Without question, it is the finest online forum for the world of food, but one thing you’ll find sorely lacking, is St. Louis content.

Really, there don’t seem to be many people from St. Louis even on eGullet to create content in the first place. The only real St. Louis restaurant topic was started sometime in 2004, and literally wasn’t posted to from 2004 until 2007. 2007 has been a bang-up year though with two posts in the topic!

So the obvious question is, why am I not posting there? Agreed, it’s a valid point, and one I can not defend. My only response is that it’s because there’s just nobody to chat about the scene with, and that really takes away from the enjoyment.

As a result, several Google searches later, and I stumbled upon Chowhound, which, according to my profile, has become my main outlet for St. Louis food discussions as of November 2006. With great people like Wayno, StlSarah, Bonwich and several others, there tends to be some pretty good exchanges by people from the area who, on the whole, seem to know what they’re talking about. It’s because of Chowhound, and my extremely opinionated viewpoints there, that I’m now attempting to keep up with the posting here. My wife tells me it’s kinder then browbeating people who love Provel over there.

So my question is, why is St. Louis looked at as such a shoddy food town on the whole, and furthermore, is it?

Is it because we’re so close to Chicago that if you’re truly a great cook you leave the area? I know that was always my goal when I was a cook, and I’d even gone up to Chicago to stage in three restaurants. In the time I was cooking few cooks in the area were that committed to the actual craft of cooking, and of those that were, many, like myself, were clearly over-enthused causing ourselves to burn fast and bright. Certainly there are several that made it through from my era that have a true passion for what they’re doing like Jamey at Stellina.

Perhaps, it’s because the Celebrity Chef craze has got people reaching too far, too high and too fast? How many times have you looked at the menu of a soon to open restaurant in St. Louis and been blown away by the verbiage only to have them pull up short when actually executing the menu? I used to get so excited when I’d read a menu of a soon to open space, but now I just start thinking about whether they’ll pull it off. There are even St. Louis culinary clichés which act as sure signs that they won’t. If you see seasonal, brace yourself for what you might find.

Maybe it’s that St. Louis is overwrought with people that just aren’t concerned with what they eat, and only that they eat? I shudder at the number of people that have told me they love Applebee’s (a rant for another day). Or, have you ever heard what the wait at an Olive Garden is on the weekend in St. Louis? Two hours! I wouldn’t wait two hours to eat at The French Laundry…and in fact, did not.

Hopefully it’s not that the St. Louis palate as a whole is undereducated compared to other urban areas, and therefore less adventurous in their dining decisions? But, when a restaurant like Arthur Clay’s fails to stay afloat, it might be an indicator that this is the case.

What do you think?

…I’m off to eGullet to drum up some St. Louis conversation and talk about the fact that I would wait two hours to eat at El Bulli.


edit: I’ve been proven slightly wrong. There are in fact 3 St. Louis Food topics on eGullet that my searches did not drum up. Per their admin, “There are, in fact, several active topics, including this one, this one, and this one. ” I’m not sure three constitutes several, but hey, at least there is some mid 2007 activity after all including this gem from a New Jersey resident “St. Louis is really not a food town.”

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