A big chef shuffle just hit the St. Louis dining scene.
Aaron Martinez, former executive chef of Elaia and Olio, has departed for Cinder House at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. Elaia and Olio owner Ben Poremba (who also owns Nixta, The Benevolent King and the newly opened AO&Co.) announced the news in a press release this weekend.
Martinez joined Elaia and Olio in October of last year, taking over for former executive chef Ben Grupe, who plans to open Tempus in The Grove later this summer. He starts at Cinder House today, according to chef-owner Gerard Craft, who says more details about Martinez's new position will be announced soon.
Look for a new menu format at Elaia, plus more wood-fired dishes at Olio.
As for his replacement at Elaia and Olio, Poremba himself plans to step back into the kitchen at the neighboring sister restaurants in Botanical Heights. "It’s been 3 years since I last oversaw daily culinary operations and direct menu development at Elaia, and I’m truly happy to back home," he says.
Poremba says a "slow but gradual decline at Elaia" inspired a series of changes at the restaurant over the past few months, including changing the menu format, bringing in sommelier Alisha Blackwell-Calvert (formerly of Reeds American Table) to run the wine program and changing the restaurant's décor. All of these changes, he says, were designed to give Elaia a better sense of identity. "But I'm determined to work hard to make Elaia not just relevant and busy, but also pioneering and exciting."
To that end, Poremba cites the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, as inspiration for the new direction at Elaia. His new menu will change daily, with a set four-course tasting menu (either standard or vegetarian) with a choice of main course. Dishes from his opening menu this weekend, for instance, included a globe artichoke salad with pickled blueberries, chanterelles and chilled tomato-miso broth and Rohan duck with honey-braised chicory and sauce albufera.
More as we learn it.
Elaia, 1634 Tower Grove Avenue, Botanical Heights, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.932.1088, elaiastl.com
Olio, 1634 Tower Grove Ave., Botanical Heights, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.932.1088, oliostl.com