Six years ago, Sauce Magazine put together its first “ones to watch” list. At the time, though, Adam Altnether and T.J. Vytlacil were just trying to get started.
“The year before that was kind of this meteoric rise in Niche that everything just kept coming to me,” Altnether told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday. In 2009, Altnether was the chef de cuisine at Niche. Today, he’s a partner at Craft Restaurant Group and Niche’s executive chef.
Vytlacil’s story was similar: “I was putting myself through school through a number of jobs,” he said. In 2009 he was an aspiring craft cocktail bartender. Vytacil is now co-owner of St. Louis restaurants Blood and Sand and Death in the Afternoon.
Having their names in that 2009 edition of Sauce changed things.
“It’s kind of a weird experience,” Altnether said. “It’s weird because then you start to go out to places that you usually frequent, whether it’s a coffee shop or a place you go get dinner every Monday night, (and) people, like, recognize you now. Now you’re kind of thrust into this public eye. Still to this day, to me, it’s weird that some people look at us as to what’s next.”
Creating the annual “ones to watch” list is a yearlong process, Sauce executive editor Ligaya Figueras said.
“We are really interested in young area professionals who we think are going to make a significant contribution to the food and beverage scene here in St. Louis. We want the best up-and-comers that we can find.”
“What we’re looking for, as far as criteria, is how seriously is an individual taking their career?” Figueras said. “Do they have drive and ambition to succeed and go further — keep learning? Talent. Obviously they have to be talented (and) exceptionally good at what they do. Dedicated. I think passion.”
Since 2009, a lot has changed, not just for Altnether and Vytlacil, but in the industry.
“It’s really cool to see how this scene, even from 2009, has just exploded,” Altnether said. “There’s super, super talented people doing their own thing out there.”
“My job is very different from 2009 to 2015,” Vytlacil said. “I have made one cocktail probably in a year. That’s not necessarily by design; I’m just really busy.
“My career didn’t matter to me in 2009. I just wanted to be creative, and this industry allowed me to be always creating and always growing and always learning.”
Sound Bites is a monthly segment produced in partnership with Sauce Magazine.