Bob Brazell is one of those new acquaintances that you feel like you already knew before you met. Brazell – a chef and entrepreneur – and his girlfriend were very friendly and both a pleasure to chat with during Dabble‘s BBQ Ribs & Wine Pairing class at Garland Wines. The class was a great success. Ribs. Great wine. It’s not a difficult choice. But enough about Dabble… Dabble Talks is for you, the reader – to help you get inside the minds of the people that are making STL great. And Bob is certainly one of those people.
Conversing over email, we touched on everything from late night eats, Maull’s BBQ sauce, music, Bob’s to-be-new-digs over at Cherokee and Jefferson, and of course, much more.
If you missed the last Dabble Talks with Shannon Lichti – founder of Limitless Planet Travel and director of St. Louis Fashion Week – you can read that here.
How long have you been cooking and what is the first dish you ever made?
I have been cooking for as long as I can remember. I loved hanging out in the kitchen with my mom as a kid. I got my first job at 15 yrs old at a banquet hall washing dishes. I was only there a couple weeks and one day the Chef had me help him make mostaccioli for like 400 people. I remember poking my head into the banquet halls that night to see peoples’ reactions after eating it. Luckily, they liked it. I was hooked.
Is there a dish that you make at home the most?
I love to BBQ. Cooking at home to me is about getting family and friends together. In this business those days are few and far between so smoking a brisket, ribs or pork shoulder all day allows for plenty of time to hang out, drink some bourbon, and enjoy the day. I actually got a chance to showcase some skills on the Travel Channel’s Underground BBQ Challenge with my great friend Chris McKenzie of Mac’s Local Buys. We cooked a whole hog in a Caja China all day when it was 15 degrees outside. It was a challenge to say the least but at the end of the day we were in the winner’s circle with $10k in hand! There is a highlight video from that day on my SNACK StL website.
HA! I knew you would hold me to that Maulls comment! Don’t underestimate that shit! StL’s food scene is amazing in so many ways. I talk about how important collaboration is a lot because I truly believe it. Working with another Chef or local purveyor at an event is always going to help spread the word and showcase our scene in a better fashion than if you are always flying solo.Of course everyone is competitive but you can call any Chef in this town at any time and no matter how busy they are they will always do what they can to help. It’s a pretty rad thing and I feel lucky every day to be a part of it.
Where do you like to eat when it’s late night and everything else is closed?
If I am “out” when everything else is closed that means that I just wrapped up a long shift in the kitchen. Late night for me usually involves a nightcap and some blues on the record player at home. Honestly, I feel like there are not too many choices for people to get a good beer and really good food past 1:30 am. I’m working on changing that. We can talk more about that later.
Have you been to Asian Kitchen on Olive?
I have. Love it. Kimchi, Bulgogi, Bibimbap… all solid. I had a healthy version of Bibimbap on a menu using cauliflower rice that I am pretty proud of. I love Asian food… especially Korean and Vietnamese. If I am ever missing just go to Mai Lee and you’ll probably find me.
Tell us about SnackSTL and about how many events do you get involved with a year?
SnackStL is a side project I started a few years ago. It really just started so that I had an outlet and excuse to throw parties and cook with my friends. In short, it’s a catering company. We do private dinners for two in your own home, cooking classes, underground pop-up dinners, weddings, and everything in-between. The thing that I love about it is that it is always different. You will never go to two SnackStL events that are the same. We like to cater to people’s specific needs. We recently catered a 5yr wedding anniversary for a couple in the Cherokee community. Their favorite thing to do is order Chinese food and watch stand-up comedy. 80 of their closest friends and family got served a locally sourced; three course Asian meal while they watched 4 stand-up comedians perform. Oh yeah, they also sipped on a boozy kombucha cocktail. It was an awesome night. In years past I haven’t had a lot of time to dedicate to it so we only did about 1 event a month. This year, with the help of some awesome friends we more than doubled that. Every time we do an event we end up booking another one from that group so it’s been cool seeing the grass-roots style approach work out. To me, if people enjoy what you do enough to want to hire you, you don’t need much more than that.
You’re going to be opening up a brand new restaurant in the not too distant future. Can you talk about this?
A little bit. We are not ready to put all our cards on the table but what I can say is that we have signed a lease on an old Popeye’s location at Jefferson and Cherokee. Our goal is to bring locally sourced fast food to urban communities. It will definitely be something new to StL. We are building an amazing team and I couldn’t be more excited about it. We just may have a little cure for that late night void we talked about as well. Stay tuned!
I love spinach. Sautee some bacon, onion, jalapeno, garlic, and FRESH spinach in olive oil… finish with a tab of butter, salt and pepper and a tablespoon of Chinkiang black vinegar. Throw that whole mixture into a cooked bowl of shrimp ramen. If you do not know how to cook ramen, stop reading this and hit yourself in the head with your computer. Do this late night after a couple beers and thank me in the morning. The cooking not the head bashing part.
When you’re not cooking or working on getting your new restaurant open for business, what do you dabble in?
Music. Always music. I have a pretty solid vinyl collection. I played drums and clarinet as a kid, got super into spinning records for years, and learning to play guitar is the new goal. The new restaurant will showcase a lot of local artwork and music. You’ll hear everything from Pokey to Wu-Tang.
What’s your best piece of advice?
Be kind to people. I was shithead kid and spent most of my younger years pissed off at everything. I have learned that life is a lot easier and way more enjoyable when you treat people the way that you want to be treated. Our industry is full of so many amazing people and when you surround yourself with good people it tends to rub off on you a bit.