The historic Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta St. Louis is known for its fine dining and elegant special events. From The Tenderloin Room, a city landmark, to the stylish Chase Club to rooftop weddings, each space in the hotel offers a “wow” factor that is enhanced by food and beverage art, created under the leadership of Executive Chef Gunter Weber.
In the first of our Meet the Executive Chef series, Chef Weber shares his inspiration, local favorites, and more.
Do you have a favorite celebrity chef that has inspired you?
Paul Bocuse had probably the biggest influence on me. He is largely responsible for a good part of the French nouvelle cuisine . Knowing how important he was to the nouvelle cuisine, me, eating at his 3 Michelin star restaurant as a 20 year old cook, and meeting him at his restaurant in France was a mid-blowing experience. That definitely changed the way I looked at food.
What is your favorite childhood food memory/dish?
My first memory of really fantastic food was my grandfather… Every year he cooked a red wine risotto, and I just remember, as a kid, it was so delicious, and it kind of changed something in my head.
If you could have only one item from your hotel’s menus, what would it be and why?
Pretzel Croissant, a perfect marriage of 2 of my favorites. I love pretzels, and I love a good croissant! Fresh out of the oven, you can’t beat that .
What do you like most about your city’s food and beverage scene? Other than your own outlet/s what spots do you recommend?
On Sundays, we usually all get up and do dim sum; we usually go to Wonton King. We love Wonton King, and Olive Boulevard, our little Chinatown. On the weekends they have the pushcarts, where they wheel around carts and you can pick what you want, and it’s just a great overall experience – the smell, you see the food before you order it, and they’re super welcoming. So we love them. Usually after that we go right next door to an awesome Chinese bakery called Wei Hong Bakery, and they have Chinese pastries – coconut buns, savory buns with pork and also a ton of sweet ones with egg custard in it; we usually grab a bunch before we leave. For lunch, I also love Sameem Afghan Restaurant. [The chef] catered a wedding that we had at the hotel once, and obviously I tried all the food and I fell in love with a couple of the dishes. And he was super nice; he took the time to explain the dishes to me, and he actually also gave me one or two recipes. For dinner, we usually try to try one new restaurant a month, but we also love to go to specialty grocery stores or international stores like Seafood City or Global Foods and cook dinner for friends; we love having friends over and entertaining.
What is your dream dining destination?
Back in 1999 , when I started cooking , I always dreamed of eating in El Bulli in Spain. Those guys reinvent cooking I a way nobody did at the time. I was always fascinated with what a creative chef can accomplish when food meets science. Alinea in Chicago and Pujol in Mexico City are close seconds.