Chef Wes Johnson has made a name for himself around town working the kitchen in such diverse venues as The Scottish Arms, The Shaved Duck, Eclipse, and most recently at his own James Beard Award-nominated restaurant, Salt. Now Johnson is involved in two projects that promise to keep him in the forefront of the St. Louis culinary scene.
Johnson has taken over as executive chef at Cafe Pintxos, the restaurant located in Hotel Ignacio in Midtown. He got involved in the project because of his passion for the city and his desire to help revitalize it.
"Midtown is important to the long-term viability of Downtown," Johnson says, noting that there is still a void between the bustle of Grand Center and the action of Downtown destinations such as Washington Avenue. His vision includes getting more retail establishments in the Midtown area so that people will get out of their cars and explore what the area has to offer.
Johnson is in the process of implementing a new wine list at Cafe Pintxos, as well as creating revamped menu offerings that will stay true to the tapas concept the restaurant while upping the ante in terms of creativity and quality. He envisions the restaurant becoming a go-to location for folks wanting a glass of wine and a bite before heading out for an evening's entertainment.
Johnson's other project is a new restaurant concept, Fixe, which he's developing with longtime friend, chef Brendan Noonan.
"His strengths are my weaknesses, and vice versa," Johnson says. "I'm so excited to be working with Brendan again."
The restaurant will be a small space, just about 30 seats or so, and will only be open weekends. Each week, Johnson and Noonan will gather their ingredients and plan a multi-course prix fixe menu, featuring food that Johnson describes as refined, European influenced fare. Johnson says his popular Dinner Club, currently on hiatus, will also re-emerge at Fixe, and he has plans for regular special events featuring a specific type of cuisine at the restaurant.
Johnson says he's scouting several locations in the University City area and is aiming for a fall opening.
"We want to focus on quality and making a really great experience for 30 to 40 people a night," he says.