On Point Hospitality’s Travis Howard and Tim Wiggins, the team behind the popular modern American pub and cocktail bar, Retreat Gastropub, announce an exciting partnership for their second restaurant, Yellowbelly (4659 Lindell Blvd). Opening late August/early September in St. Louis, Missouri, renowned chef, restaurateur, television personality and cookbook author Richard Blais and his culinary consulting company, Trail Blais, will lead the culinary vision for the sea and spirits concept. The James Beard Award nominee and winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars will work with Howard and Wiggins to curate the menu, hire the restaurant’s executive chef and kitchen team (see more below), as well as spend time in the kitchen, working with the team on his menu both before and after opening.
The collaboration between two young up-and-coming restaurateurs and Blais started with a simple email. “I’ve always admired Richard,” says owner Travis Howard, 34. “I took a shot and reached out via his website for insight on finding new chef talent for Yellowbelly. I got a response back almost immediately from Richard himself, and he expressed immediate excitement in our vision for the concept.
A New York native, Blais comes from humble beginnings in the culinary world as a line cook at a Long Island McDonald’s. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he worked as a chef in highly esteemed kitchens such as The French Laundry, Daniel, Chez Panisse and el Bulli. Blais owns and operates Trail Blais, the forward-thinking culinary consulting company that will be working with Yellowbelly, and is critically acclaimed for the success of his restaurants in Southern California.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Travis and Tim on this exciting project,” says Blais. “I love their energy and spirit and am excited to be a part of introducing Yellowbelly to St. Louis locals and visitors.” Blais will make trips to Yellowbelly throughout the year after opening to continue to develop the menu and create new dishes.
Yellowbelly will offer seafood-focused fare and a thoughtful beverage program with a concentrated focus on rum, wines by the glass, craft beer, classic cocktails and more. The concept evokes a sense of play with a bright, clean design with serious, but fun cocktails and food. As with their first concept, Retreat Gastropub, Yellowbelly will be about a mindset–a lively hideout to gather with friends for a good time.
The animated name is a derivative of the literal “yellow-bellied” tropical birds and fish, but it’s also a buck to the term yellow-belly, or coward. With calls to “be brave” throughout the restaurant, Yellowbelly is a playful dare to try something new.
“The food scene in St. Louis is constantly evolving, and the Central West End is a truly exciting, emerging neighborhood,” says Blais. “It immediately spoke to me the first time I visited, and I’m looking forward to expanding my culinary footprint to the Midwest.”
Partner and Bar Manager Tim Wiggins, 26, created the beverage program as a love letter to rum–something that hasn’t been done before in St. Louis. He explains, “We want to evoke a sense of adventure at Yellowbelly and offer a new, energetic dining and drinking experience. Rum is a passion of mine, and no one in St. Louis is focusing solely on the spirit. It allows me to not only challenge myself, but also have an open, fun conversation with our guests.”
The signature Yellowbelly rum cocktails will be served in fun, cheeky custom glassware. Guests can expect cocktails based off of tropical fish names and traits, such as: Rummy Nose Torpedo, Green Terror, Cherry Barb Punch and more. While the drinks will be bold and playful, Wiggins wants to make one thing clear, “it won’t be a tiki bar.”
While Blais will further define the menu, his residence in Southern California, frequent travels to Hawaii, and proximity to Mexico will inspire the menu featuring bright, light flavors, seasonal fruits and vegetables and the best, freshest seafood available. Expect raw seafood dishes such as ceviche and crudo to seafood entrées like whole fish. In addition, the menu will include approachable American fare with shareable small plates, larger approachable entrées, such as a burger, and more.
Architect Nick Adams of Mademan Design will bring Yellowbelly’s California coastal vibe to life in the 3,000-square foot space. The restaurant and bar’s 16-foot ceilings and glass exterior create an airy, bright environment while natural design elements of light, bamboo-inspired, white oak wood with subtle tropical tones of deep teal and white add warmth to the space. St. Louis-born artist Noah MacMillan created custom murals on two main walls, and there is also a geometric installation over the 15-seat quartz bar to create additional modern touches. The open, exhibition kitchen is easily visible behind the bar, which features built-in floating shelves. The restaurant overall will seat 90 to 95 people with an additional 40 seats outside.
Blais, Howard and Wiggins will interview candidates for chef and kitchen positions from executive chef, overseeing daily restaurant operations, to sous chef and other support roles. Interested individuals can email their resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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