Rob Connoley is chef and owner of the hottest new restaurant in St. Louis, MO, Bulrush. The native Missourian returned to St. Louis to open the restaurant that is focused on Ozark cooking.
According to St. Louis Magazine, the “long-awaited restaurant is an entertaining, well-researched archetype of modern dining.” We happen to think a lot of that has to do with Rob and his commitment to creating a wonderful experience for his guests and his zest for life. Just look at the pictures he provided us here and you can see how much fun he is to be around.
Bulrush is focused on foods commonly associated with the Ozarks. It’s akin to Southern cooking, with a focus on foraged ingredients and wild game. His cooking normally includes things like sorghum, pawpaw and persimmons, but not in ways you’d traditionally think. Rob enjoys preserving foods using a variety of techniques like pickling and drying. To create the menu for Bulrush, he researched older cookbooks from the area, mainly from churches, and talked with residents who live off the land, according to a preview article in the St. Louis Dispatch.
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
When I opened my previous restaurant, The Curious Kumquat in Silver City, NM.
What/who inspired your current role in the food industry?
The families that have defined Ozark cuisine for over 200 years.
If you had one message for people who don’t live and breathe food like we do, what would that message be?
Take a different path to work at least once a week. There are so many amazing people and places out there, and if you can’t get out of your routine, you’ll never discover them.
What are the milestones in your career of which you’re most proud?
What food trends are most influential in what you do?
The only “trend” that matters to me is scratch cooking. Everything else will come and go, but chefs and home cooks that commit to cooking from scratch every meal, every day, will always be rewarded with food that feeds their spirit.
Tell us about an industry professional who influenced you most?
Jordan Kahn is the single most creative chef in the country, and his work inspires me every day. He challenges me to think about what food is and how we present it.
What's your big splurge food item? Any particular brand you're willing to pay more for?
What’s your favorite food to make at home?
We live on Nam Khao (crispy rice salad). I had it at Lotus of Siam years ago and it still lives on as the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
What’s your favorite meal to order in a restaurant?
Roasted Brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, most chefs over or under cook them. They should be charred but al dente.
Tell us about a memorable meal you’ve had.
I’ve enjoyed so many fantastic meals in my life, and I could certainly say the birthday dinner I prepared for my mom which was exactly what she wanted (a gentle coconut broth poached monkfish fillet with spring vegetables), but I will long remember my dinner at n/naka where Chef Nikki helped me celebrate transitioning from my last restaurant to my new one.
Tell us about food or ingredient would you never use or eat.
A whole category of foods defined by the fact that we don’t have a can opener in our kitchen.
What cookbooks or cooking classes are most important to you? Why?
I’ve really trended towards chef-driven magazines like Toothache or So Good (both pastry intensive) because of the vast creativity that they share. I do love my cookbooks, but the recipes in them are by process of production, at least two years old already.
Please describe your perfect day.
As corny as it sounds, I love my job so much that every day fits that bill. I love waking up early; going out foraging for the restaurant for a few hours; coming back and cooking for a bit, then making a round of fancy chocolates; all to be followed with enthusiastic customers. What could be better than that...oh yeah, my loving spouse and dogs!
Tell us about your favorite vacation destination.
The perfect vacation for me would be to backpack in to the deep woods of the mountains of Southern Colorado, where I would spend the week living off the land and knocking down a few bottles of wine.
Connect with Rob and Bulrush: