(View photos from the dinner)
As a child, Kevin Nashan spent as much time in the kitchen as he did in the classroom. Born in Chicago and raised in Santa Fe, his family owned La Tertulia, a beloved Northern New Mexican restaurant, for 27 years. Started by his Hispanic grandfather in 1972, Nashan helped out doing everything from washing dishes and working front of house. While attending St. Louis University, Nashan pondered a complete departure from the restaurant industry and thought about attending law school, but ultimately the pull of his roots were too strong. Upon graduation, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. This, in turn, led to an internship at Commander's Palace under Chef Jamie Shannon, introducing him to the fast-paced world of restaurant kitchens, many nights doing 700 covers or more.
After culinary school, Nashan immersed himself in French cuisine and practicing impeccable technique under the guidance of celebrated Chef Roland Liccioni at La Francais in Chicago, at the time considered one of the best restaurants in the country. In 1998, Nashan moved far from home for an opportunity to stage at Raco Del Con Fabes in northwestern Spain, but due to a miscommunication, found himself there in the wrong month! Always resourceful, he bought a Michelin Guide and set out for San Sebastian, Spain, a laid-back surf town with one of the highest concentrations of Michelin stars in the world. He knocked on doors and landed at the famed three-starred restaurant, Martin Berasategui, which would ultimately make a big impression on Nashan and broaden his culinary path.
After close to a year in Europe, Nashan longed to return to the states and accepted a position at Daniel in New York City, where Daniel Boloud's high expectations pushed him to do things beyond what he thought possible. Starting in garde manger, he worked his way through the kitchen, sharing the line with a host of now notable young chefs such as Alex Lee, Neil Gallagher, Johnny Iuzzini, Chris Lee, and Brad Thompson. In 2002, Nashan returned to his adopted hometown of St. Louis with the intentions of opening a restaurant. He learned that the owners of local standby Sidney Street Café were looking to pass the torch after 16 years in business. Kevin loved the beautiful building and decided, along with his wife Mina, to buy the restaurant in 2003.
Nashan seamlessly incorporates his wide variety of culinary experiences and influences in to seasonal, locally-sourced creations. His French training shines through his food in dishes like a play on Bouillabaisse with eel and uni or foie gras with olives and citrus; while his time in Spain shows its lasting impact in soulful sofrito-based dishes and the innumerable cured products in the pantry. The New Mexican cuisine of his childhood is also never far from his mind—posole and aji paired with chilles rellenos are favorites to this day—and his love for Southern cuisine shines through in the form of ingredients like ham hocks, sorghum, and speckled grits. Nashan believes that sourcing locally should be expected, not celebrated, and it doesn't get much closer to home than the micro greens he grows in the basement or the spring garden occupying 100 yards of the Sidney Street Café parking lot.
Nashan has been a semifinalist for the James Beard Award four times, cooked for President Barack Obama, and competed in Cochon 555. When he's not in the kitchen, you can find him training for triathlons and ironman competitions (he's done six!), playing sports, hunting, and being outdoors. He loves enjoying all St. Louis has to offer with his wife Mina and their two sons, Max and Miles.
> Return to 2013 Planes, Trains, and Traveling Chefs.