Local Chef Kitchen Transforms Your Local Market Basket into Today’s Dinner

By Amy De La Hunt
In Food

This is the time of year when community supported agriculture networks—or CSAs—are about to start delivering the first leafy bunches of lettuce and hot pink radishes along with a week’s worth of meats, eggs, and cheeses to hungry customers. Many CSAs deliver year-round, but there’s just something about fresh produce that makes the deliveries seem more bounteous in the spring. The same goes for farmers’ markets, which are opening across the metro area this month.

Photo courtesy of Local Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Local Chef Kitchen

But let’s admit it, we all have good intentions about cooking … we just don’t always get around to it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a talented chef who was just itching to whip up the week’s goodies for us?

Well …

The “chef”
Local Chef Kitchen came about via a CSA called Local Chef STL that Robert Uyemura started in 2012 after a long career in restaurants like YaYa’s Euro Bistro and Eau Cafe. He’s pulled together a team that helps him butcher and cure meats in-house, prep the heirloom veggies he grows organically in West County and round everything out with amazing desserts and ice creams.

Uyemura chats charismatically about the dishes and the ingredients, even with kids—maybe because he has also offered a farm-to-school lunch program. His experiences with kids might also be why he raised an eyebrow (but thankfully didn’t say a word) when the 9-year-old ordered Mayfair kale salad alongside his rock shrimp and cod stew with Ozark shiitake mushrooms and fresh cream. Uyemura smiled knowingly (but, again, thankfully didn’t say a word) when the 12-year-old opted for the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella grilled cheese on brioche with a bag of potato chips.

The focus on sustainability extends to the restaurant’s tableware, including compostable trays and real silverware that customers can dispose of properly in a small busing area as they leave.

The “local”
Since local leafy greens and tangy radishes haven’t quite hit the shelves yet, the market section of Local Chef Kitchen still consists mostly of frozen meats, like pork from Geisert Farms and beef from Rain Crow Ranch, along with artisan cheeses, snacks and sodas. Quite a few of the offerings are house-made, ranging from jerky to cookies (in flavors like sorghum-spice, monster, and chocolate chip with Missouri pecans). Because Uyemura and his team butcher have a nose-to-tail philosophy, you’ll find items like head cheese in the cooler.

The ingredients for dishes are locally sourced whenever possible. This is true of the meats, fruits, veggies and even the ice cream—there are usually three flavors on any given day. We were eager to try the buttermilk-cinnamon, which was loaded with cinnamon but not quite as tangy as expected.

The “kitchen”
The proteins we sampled were all cooked to perfection, from the cod in the 9-year-old’s stew to the chicken on a field salad with mixed greens, cucumber, radishes, celery, goat cheese and garlic dressing. But what really stood out were the sides—the care and attention that went into them showed just how seriously Uyemura takes his craft.

Glazed carrots that could have been simply slapped with some butter instead used brown butter with a bit of sorghum syrup for just enough sweetness. The celery relish slaw was an interesting and delicious combination of diced celery, carrots and cabbage with bits of pickle in a tangy dressing. We had to leave other tempting options like the squash macaroni and cheese, the whipped red potatoes and the scalloped cabbage for future visits.

Breads are made in house too, and were perfect for soaking up the 9-year-old’s stew after he’d finished fishing out the shrimp, cod and veggies. You can order any of the proteins as a sandwich on house-made bread, but in practical terms it’s hard to picture some of them as being that versatile. Then again, the slow-cooked pork shoulder and the meatloaf with smoked tomato jus would have both been good candidates for an experiment.

If none of this sounds like something you’d whip up from your CSA basket, I hear you. It’s a good thing Uyemura has done the hard work for us.

Inside dish
Tips for a top-notch experience at Local Chef Kitchen

Top dish: The ever-changing menu makes it hard to pin down just one, but the chicken breast stuffed with andouille and farmer cheese will be hard to beat.
Popular pour: Pop open a bottle of Ski or Excel soda, because there’s no liquor license yet.
Best place to perch: The tiny shop offers only a couple dozen seats; the ones closest to the merchandise let you browse from the comfort of your own table.
Insider tip: There’s a fast-casual feel to the mix-and-match menu—and with the farm-fresh philosophy, you’re almost never going to find the same options two days in a row.

Where to go
Local Chef Kitchen
15270 Manchester Road
636.220.3212
Entrees $6.99-$15.49
Kitchen hours: Mon.-Sat. 11am-7pm

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