Two of St. Louis' most esteemed chefs are teaming up for a one-of-a-kind dinner.
Chefs Nate Hereford, formerly executive chef of the acclaimed, now-shuttered Niche, and Ben Grupe, former executive chef of Elaia and captain of the 2016 American Culinary Federation Culinary Team USA, are coming together for what promises to be an unforgettable dinner on a farm in southern Illinois.
The dinner, set for Oct. 20, will take place in a barn on the 500-acre farm of Dave Stine and Stephanie Abbajay of David Stine Woodworking in Dow, Illinois. It will be a multi-course sit-down dinner that will include canapés, cocktails, wine and beer.
The two chefs have been wanting to collaborate for a while. Grupe approached Hereford a few years ago about doing a dinner together, and they stayed in touch about the idea. They decided the time was right now, while Hereford has some time on his hands and as Grupe gets ready to open his first restaurant, Tempus.
The chef has worked in some of the top kitchens in town, in addition to world-renowned culinary competitions.
They knew Stine's farm, located about an hour drive north of St. Louis, would be the perfect venue. The woodworker had recently reached out to Hereford to let him know that his offices has just been moved out of the barn and that there was plenty of space to host dinners.
"It's kind of a nice little bit of a getaway from town," Hereford says. "You're kind of in another world out there. It's really beautiful, really serene and really inspiring."
So far, according to the chefs, the planning of the dinner has been going swimmingly. "It's been 100 percent collaborative," Grupe says.
"I think our styles are somewhat synergistic," Hereford adds. The two have done a lot of building and riffing on ideas together to create the dishes on the menu.
"It's just nice communicating with a like-minded individual," Grupe says.
While the dinner has no particular theme, the two chefs are focusing on seasonality. To pair with the ambiance of being on a farm in autumn, they are determining which ingredients are best at this time of year and what is available from farmers that are "at our back doors."
Guests can expect plenty of good food from the dinner, of course, but the chefs say that they can also expect to have a lot of fun while they're on the farm.
"You kind of create a sense of place being there, and I think a lot of it starts with having a good time," Hereford says.
As for the chefs, they will certainly be out of their element: although there is a kitchen on the property, it won't be the kind of commercial kitchen that the two are used to.
"It's gonna be challenging for both of us in the best sense," Hereford says.
"I think the challenging aspect of it is what makes it exciting," Grupe adds.