Q&A: Chef Bob Brazell Brings SnackStL and a Still-In-The-Works Restaurant Concept to STL

By Katlyn Moncada
In Food
Bob Brazell. Photo by Greg Rannell

Bob Brazell. Photo by Greg Rannell

Chef Bob Brazell is no stranger to St. Louis’ culinary scene. Born and raised here, the chef has worked with some of our city’s finest in the industry and most recently served as executive chef at Athlete Eats. When we heard about the launch of his own catering business, SnackStL, ALIVE caught up with Brazell to get the scoop on all this culinary mind has to offer.

ALIVE: Can you describe SnackStL’s concept?
Bob Brazell: At SnackStL, we do private dinners for two in your own home, invite-only pop-up dinners at secret locations, weddings and everything in between. I have met—and continue to meet—so many amazing people in our industry. SnackStL gives me an outlet to collaborate with those people and help spread the word about what our city has to offer. Even if I am just catering a party for 50 people, I try to bring someone like Nate Bonner from NHB Knifeworks to showcase his knives, Ryan Maher of Missouri Wild Edibles to share his locally foraged goods or Chris McKenzie of Mac’s Local Buys to provide some high-quality local proteins. It adds another layer of depth to the party and most importantly, it starts conversations about our food scene.

ALIVE: Can you tell us about plans for opening a new restaurant?
BB: You are catching me at the early stage of it. We have leased an old Popeye’s Chicken location at Jefferson and Cherokee. We are building an amazing team of people for this project and we are waiting to have all of our cards before we show our hand. Without giving too many details, I will say that the goal is to bring locally sourced fast food to urban communities across the city and ultimately the US.

When you drive down certain streets and all you see is “The Big Boy” fast food chains for food options, that is a huge concern to me. We want to work together with the community to create an environment that people want to be a part of. We want to make tasty food that is not full of crap so easily available that the person that would usually pop into a convenience store and grab a bag of chips and an energy drink for lunch will now pop in or drive through our joint. Don’t get me wrong, there will be tons of things on the menu for the greasy spoon lover in all of us—it will just be done right.

ALIVE: You’ve also been working as a consultant to local restaurants like The Corner Cup’s. What do you hope to accomplish by collaborating with them?
BB:
Working with the guys at The Corner Cup has been great. They reached out to me with one goal in mind: To offer great food at their coffee shop. The Corner Cup now offers locally sourced options and works with almost 10 different local farmers/purveyors. They also now offer quick-grab treats from Sugaree Baking Company and if you’re in-the-know, you know Pat and Jimmy don’t play around. That is reason enough to stop in and check the place out.

ALIVE: What inspired you to become a chef?
BB: I always loved cooking. Even though childhood dinners usually involved my mom yelling at me for something stupid I had done or my brother kicking me under the table, they brought us together and I always recognized that. I love nothing more than getting people together to enjoy some time spent over food.

I wanted to go to culinary school right out of high school, but back then it was actually frowned upon and I didn’t have the “marbles” to make that move then. I was 17 years old when I graduated high school. I went to junior college and eventually Lindenwood University. I worked in restaurants that whole time and always knew that I wanted to cook. I went culinary school after Lindenwood.

After the first day, I knew I made the right choice. I also knew that I should have made that choice a long time ago, so I had to work 100 times harder than the young guy next to me. I would wake up at 4am every morning to be at school at 6am, go straight from school to work in a kitchen until midnight or 1am and then do it all over again. I even worked for free in other kitchens on my 2 days off just because I knew I had to learn from those chefs. Honestly, I miss it and I would do it all again right now.

ALIVE: What is a favorite memory in the kitchen so far?
BB: I would have to say the last night at Monarch. I made friends for life in that kitchen and although we were closing, we knew that we just went through something pretty special. As a line cook, any time you get to dump 22 quarts of ice water on your chef’s head, it’s awesome in so many ways!

ALIVE: What current chef or food personality inspires you?
BB: Josh Galliano. Josh was the first chef that took time to teach me, coach me, yell at me, push me, yell at me. Monarch is where I really learned how to work in a kitchen and that is all because of Josh. The first time I walked into his kitchen, he was standing on a sheet tray, on the grill, cleaning the hoods. That was Josh, every day. Seeing him crush it at The Libertine and living out every cook’s dream—cooking at the James Beard House—makes all of us push harder every day. I’ve worked for people before and after Josh but he will always be “Chef.”

ALIVE: Any particular food trends we need to get in on right now?
BB: I would support any dude doing locally-sourced fast food in the near future!

ALIVE: What is your favorite dish to make?
BB: Pho

ALIVE: How would you describe the up-and-coming food scene in this city?BB: It’s like Voltron. All these individual parts that are awesome on their own are coming together to create this culinary monster. That’s the thing that sets us apart. We all work together to make our city the best it can be.

ALIVE: Besides food, what is something you are passionate about?
BB: People and Music. He who dies with the most friends and records wins.

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