Home Sweet Home
Award-winning chef Patrick Connolly returns to his St. Louis roots.
Patrick Connolly has had a career most chefs only fantasize about. He has worked in the kitchens at some of the East Coast’s finest restaurants, like Bobo in NYC and Radius in Boston–and in 2008, he won the James Beard Award for Best New Chef Northeast. Now, he’s come back home to helm the kitchen at Basso, the charming new Italian-inspired basement pub at The Cheshire. ALIVE caught up with Connolly about his career adventures and what brought him back to his hometown.
ALIVE: We have to ask–where did you go to high school?
Patrick Connolly: St. Louis University High School.
ALIVE: Where did you get your culinary start?
PC: My first ever cooking job was at Tucker’s Place at Manchester and 141. Then I had a friend who was working at Dressel’s, and he asked me to come there. I bartended one night a week and ultimately became the kitchen manager. I found I really loved cooking, and ended up buying “The French Laundry Cookbook” at Left Bank Books. That was the first time I saw what being a chef could be, and I realized that it was what I wanted to do.
ALIVE: How did you get involved with Basso?
PC: It just sort of happened. I was pretty comfortable on the East Coast, and my wife is from Philadelphia. I’d always kept tabs on The Cheshire, but when I learned what was happening there, I saw they were doing something really dynamic. I had to at least check it out. I really couldn’t say no–this project could have been anywhere in the country and I would have gone.
ALIVE: What’s your vision for Basso?
PC: My vision is for it to be a super comfortable place that doesn’t intimidate people. We take the food seriously, but we want people to be able to come in a couple of times a week, have a great time and not kill their wallet. We also want to be part of this vibrant, growing culinary community in St. Louis.
ALIVE: When you’re off the clock, where do you head to grab a bite?
PC: I’m still figuring that out–I haven’t had a day off yet! Since I’ve been back, I’ve eaten at Pastaria, and it was terrific. My wife and I like to go to Winslow’s Home, particularly during the day before I go into work. I’m really looking forward to eating at Sidney Street Cafe?. Kevin [Nashan] has been very gracious and welcoming to me.
ALIVE: What’s your favorite St. Louis comfort food?
PC: The Special at Amighetti’s has always been a favorite, and I’m a sucker for Imo’s, too. Ever since I left, those are the things I craved and had to have when I came back.
Patrick Connolly, Basso
Photo credit: Christopher Gibbons