© 2021 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Sound Bites: St. Louis restaurateurs Gerard Craft and Dave Bailey discuss latest projects

Clockwise from bottom, Gerard Craft, Dave Bailey, Kevin Nashan, Nick Luedde
Ashley Gieseking | Sauce Magazine
Clockwise from bottom, Gerard Craft, Dave Bailey, Kevin Nashan, Nick Luedde

What makes us choose favorite restaurants?

On the latest edition of Sound Bites, Sauce Magazine’s art director Meera Nagarajan explained that diners look for consistency. In other words, we want to know that when we go to a restaurant, we’re going to have a positive, delicious experience.

In Sauce Magazine’s annual Reader’s Choice Poll, St. Louisans identified the top four restaurateurs in the area:

  • Gerard Craft
  • Nick Luedde
  • Kevin Nashan
  • Dave Bailey

Craft and Bailey joined St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter to discuss their most recent projects.

Craft, who won the James Beard Award for best chef in the Midwest last year, is close to opening Sardella, which he said is a modern take on Italian food. This new restaurant is in the same location as his previous restaurant, Niche, and will employ the same team members.

“Sardella is an old world sauce that is often found in southern Italy,” said Craft. “It’s taking things that are very old and kind of bringing something kind of fresh and new to those ideas.”

Dave Bailey has started eight restaurants in St. Louis, including Bailey’s Chocolate Bar, Bailey’s Range, Rooster, and Small Batch. His latest project is called Shift Test Kitchen and Takeout. The kitchen opened a couple of months ago, and it serves barbeque takeout. There are only five items on the menu and they change every week.

“We’re doing barbeque not in the traditional sense,” Bailey explained. “Anything that really involves smoke and fire from around the world is fair game.”

Bailey will open a full-scale barbeque restaurant next year, at which point the Shift Test Kitchen will “shift” to test a different concept.

“This newest restaurant – Shift – I think is an interesting concept,” Nagarajan said. “I’ve not seen a restaurant, like a proper restaurant, that’s doing a new menu all the time and it’s just constantly changing…I think conceptually they have some interesting ideas.”

As veterans in the restaurant business, Craft and Bailey both expressed their belief in the importance of fostering a collaborative environment and keeping ego out of the kitchen.

“I used to call our restaurants chef-driven, which was probably the worst way to run a restaurant…and a seriously egotistical way to run a restaurant,” said Craft. “Over the years I’ve definitely learned new management styles and how to create a more group-oriented structure so everybody’s got a say.”

"You plan, and plan, and plan, and plan, but at the end of the day, a restaurant is a living, breathing thing."

It’s not just the employees who have a say at these restaurants. Craft and Bailey encourage input from customers and are always looking for ways to improve their menus.

“You plan, and plan, and plan, and plan, but at the end of the day, a restaurant is a living, breathing thing,” said Bailey. “It’s a culmination of the people that work there and the people that come there.”

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.

Stay Connected

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.