Paul Whitsitt portrait

Paul Whitsitt is the owner of Kitchen House Coffee. 

While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, beverages and more.

Paul Whitsitt owns Kitchen House Coffee and recently reopened the original Tower Grove East location on June 6 with curbside pickup and a socially distanced indoor ordering option with expanded patio seating. The cafe is currently open Wednesday through Sunday from 7am to 1pm. According to Whitsitt, the second location of Kitchen House Coffee in Carondelet unfortunately will not be reopening. Visit the Kitchen House Coffee website for the menu and details on how to order.

What are some comforting meals you like to cook at home? I have to admit that meals generally have been a comforting routine during our stay-at-home months. In “normal” times, my husband David and I eat about half of our dinners out and half at home, but that changed in late March. We eat almost no processed foods, grow as much of our own as we can at our nearby urban farm and pride ourselves on generating almost no food waste  what with leftovers for lunch, backyard chickens and our dog, and a three-bin compost set-up. A roasted chicken or ham steak dinner becomes chicken noodle or ham and bean soup, fresh arugula or peppercress spice up a veggie pizza, and I throw some sautéed kale in just about everything  chili, turkey burgers, pasta sauce, scrambled eggs, etc.

What are your favorite things about raising backyard chickens and beekeeping? How can people get started if they're interested in either? Chickens are comically entertaining and bees are just plain fascinating. Chickens are all about themselves  making sure they get to eat the grub, sunbathe in the best spot, hog the nesting box, etc. Bees on the other hand do absolutely nothing for the individual bee  every act is done to further the health of the hive. The more I learn about how they communicate and why they do what they do, the more I can spend hours watching them.

I think the best way to get started with either backyard chickens or beekeeping is to educate yourself. I went to lots of workshops, many of them free, at places like Gateway Greening, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the University of Missouri Extension Campus, and the St. Louis Beekeepers organization. Although in-person workshops are probably limited these days, there is a lot of information on websites for these and other organizations.

Tell us about the composting you do at home, and why it is beneficial. What advice can you offer on how to dive into these sustainable practices? I made my three-bin compost arrangement with wood pallets in 2013, and it’s just now at the point of needing to be rebuilt. Composting is a connection between growing and eating food. Most of our non-meat food waste that doesn’t go to the chickens or dog goes in the compost bin, along with other “brown” waste  straw, leaves, shredded paper, coffee filters. I also bring buckets of coffee grounds and food waste from the coffee shop to the compost bin. After approximately a year of decomposing, it is usually ready to supplement the soil in the beds we use to raise food for home and the coffee shop.

As with raising chickens and bees, it’s smart to educate yourself on composting before starting. Too much “green” waste and not enough “brown” can lead to smelly, slimy compost, and adding meat and some other types of waste could draw rodents and other pests unwelcome in an urban setting. Turning compost is important, because air helps speed the decomposition process.

What are some of your go-to drinks, and how can home cooks make their own version with some simple ingredients? We do not have an espresso machine at home, so we’ve really been missing espresso tastings lately. However, we have found that one of our favorite Kitchen House Coffee housemade syrups can dress up a drip coffee or cold brew at home or be used to make a refreshing soda. We use lavender from our farm, honey and blueberries, boil and let sit overnight before straining. Add it to sparkling water over ice for a homemade soda.

Kitchen House Coffee, 3149 Shenandoah Ave., St. Louis, 314.732.0009, kitchenhousecoffee.com