Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gerard Ford Craft – 2016 Distinguished Alumni

To say that Gerard Craft has found success as a chef and businessman would be an understatement. He received Food & Wine’s Best New Chef and Innovator of the Year awards. He was one of Inc. magazine’s Star Entrepreneurs under 30. And he won the James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Midwest award.

In 2005, at the age of 25, he opened the restaurant Niche in Missouri and has since extended his offerings as part of Niche Food Group in St. Louis to include Taste by Niche, Brasserie by Niche, Pastaria and Porano Pasta, and a second Pastaria is expected to open in Nashville this summer. His success has grown from an addiction to the restaurant life he developed while he was a snowboard photographer in Salt Lake City. Before opening his first restaurant in a rehabilitated building in Benton Park, St. Louis, he cooked at Bistro Toujours in Park City; Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles; and Ryland Inn in New Jersey.

Gerard Ford Craft

Craft continues to build his culinary niche on a foundation that took shape at Salt Lake Community College’s Culinary Institute at the Miller Campus. “In that kitchen is where I learned the building blocks of cooking, and without them I wouldn't be where I am today," Craft says. He will never forget his time under the tutelage of SLCC instructor Leslie Seiferle. "Even though I am pretty sure I was low on the list of talent in that kitchen, Leslie kept pushing me. I remember one amazing time during a practical exam when I was stirring some caramel and Leslie was staring over my shoulder. I had no clue what she was doing, but when I took the time to look down I noticed that my non-heatproof spatula had melted into the sugar. Leslie just smiled and told me to start over. It’s really shocking I have come as far as I have."

Craft has carved out a reputation for innovative interpretations of humble Missouri ingredients that he sources from local farmers. The newer Porano Pasta is billed as a fast-casual restaurant, with plans for two locations in the St. Louis area. Using his social media savvy, Craft has racked up about 10,000 followers on Twitter and more than 4,670 followers on Instagram. He’s also well liked on Facebook and Pinterest.

In 2010, Craft told St. Louis magazine, “Growing up, all I wanted to do was to own a business and be a businessman.” In that article, he talks about beginning his cooking career at ski resorts. As an impulsive 25-year-old, he made the leap to Missouri after seeing “something good was happening” as a lot of young owner-chefs were starting businesses there. He now lives in St. Louis with his wife, Susan, and their two daughters.