James Beard Award-winning chef Gerard Craft discusses his love for St. Louis, Porano Pasta and more | St. Louis Public Radio

James Beard Award-winning chef Gerard Craft discusses his love for St. Louis, Porano Pasta and more

Feb 2, 2016

James Beard Award-winning chef Gerard Craft is known for some of St. Louis’ most beloved restaurants which produce cutting-edge and taste-bud-tingling food. So when restaurateurs heard his newest venture was going fast-casual, they did a double-take.

Despite the initial shock, the restaurant has opened to lines out the door:

On Monday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” Craft joined the show to discuss the restaurant, what he’s up to next and his take on the St. Louis restaurant scene.

Here are some of the most poignant things he said on the show:

On the opening of Porano Pasta:

“For an opening, we definitely make mistakes and we definitely fumble but this seems to be going smoothly. We’re learning every day and Friday, which was our last serving day before today, was our best yet.”

On his choice to make Porano “fast-casual:”

“The busier as I get as a professional, as a father and as an American, I find there just is not a lot of great food that you can get on the fly, going quick. I mean real food, vegetables, meats you can trust, real food.”

On the healthiness of food:

“The problem is that taglines become a thing. What’s a buzzword? Going back to no-fat, gluten-free … there’s a lot of buzzwords out there and I think it is hard for consumers to make sense of that. I think there’s a lot of confusion in nutritional health these days.”

On the name “Porano:”

“We wanted to make a personal restaurant that’s a fast-food restaurant. Most fast-food restaurants feel like they were designed by a corporation. We wanted something that really expressed the hospitality that I had come to know and love of the little town of Porano. It is not necessarily Porano food, but it is Porano hospitality, love, care, family.

“Porano is the first place I had been to, the first small town that I stayed in Italy and met families and sat down to dinner with people and met chefs. I had our two-year-old daughter with us and it made such a big impact on me. I was classically French-trained but I had cooked Italian food, I had known Italy, I had been there, but this had a different impact on me. This showed me what the Italian culture really is, about sitting down at a table where everyone becomes family and everybody’s welcomed and accepted.

“I wanted to take that notion of an experience and feeling and translate that to fast-food where it isn’t really about a feeling.”

On ingredients:

“We live in a dangerous food world. There’s recalls all the time. They’ll trick us too, with labels: free-range, cage free … what does that all mean? We’re trying to make a concerted effort to buy as much as we can from the people we know. So I know the person who is bringing me my hog and to do that, to eliminate food waste, we have to figure out how to use the whole pig. That notion has been out there for a long time and I didn’t think we’d do it in fast-food. But now more than ever, we find it important to create those relationships.”

On St. Louis:

“I love St. Louis. I think it is the people in St. Louis I love the most. The people are humble, real people. I lived in L.A. for a while and wasn’t a real fan of the scene. The people here have been so welcoming and so comforting. I know I didn’t make the wrong choice.

“A lot of other cities get more love than St. Louis. It’s amazing when I bring other chefs to St. Louis and they see everything that’s going on. You look at all the chefs in our group and then at guys like Kevin Nashan, who have Sidney Street and his new Peacemaker, or Mike Randolph who has Público, or Kevin Willmann with Farmhaus or Mike Emerson with Pappy’s or Ricky with The Southern…there’s all these guys doing their own thing. Everybody’s doing something a little bit different. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It is one of the most exciting times to be in St. Louis. People are starting to take notice.”

Want to try Porano Pasta? Check it out at 634 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO, 63101. 

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.