Chef de Cuisine, Cinder House Restaurant and Bar
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2018
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Sous Chef, Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis
- Sugarfire Smoke House, St. Louis; Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Boston; Boulud Sud, New York; Sidney St. Café, St. Louis; Monarch, St. Louis; LoRussa’s Cucina, St. Louis
- Certificate, Culinary Arts/Chef Training, St. Louis Community College
- St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Peter Slay has had his “hands in the menu,” as he puts it, since the opening of Cinder House at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis in late 2018. Now, as Chef de Cuisine, the signature restaurant’s menu is in his hands. “I started here as the Sous Chef. I’m quickly finding with the additional flexibility in creativity, comes more meetings,” he jokes, detailing his oversight of the South American-inspired dining experience conceived by James Beard Award-winning Consulting Chef Gerard Craft. “Chef Craft has always encouraged creativity in menu development and I plan to continue that tradition, encouraging our entire team to contribute.”
The ingredients in the kitchen are a big inspiration for the whole team. Befitting Four Seasons, Slay sources only the best-quality product, and there’s a lot to go around in the Midwest. “It’s really a perk to have some of the best produce and high-quality ingredients in the country – located only minutes away,” he says, recounting trips to local farmers markets and other sources. “I’m very visual: When I see beautiful chili peppers or tomatoes or watermelon radishes, I just want to create something with them.”
Slay recalls spending a lot of time researching South American fare when he was originally hired by Craft, and his knowledge has only broadened since. Cinder House draws a lot of inspiration from Brazilian cuisine, a “melting pot” of gastronomy with influences from Italy to the Middle East that, he notes, offers its share of opportunities. “We love to elevate traditional favourites.” Simple beans and rice may be refined with pork belly or brisket barbequed in the kitchen’s smoker, for instance, or big eye tuna may be dressed up with fire-roasted fennel and a spicy Peruvian aji verde sauce.
While Slay enjoys pushing envelopes, he remains cognizant of the evolving tastes of his clientele. “We serve a Midwestern palate, but we also have a lot travellers, including international guests; therefore the dynamic of the restaurant is always changing as a result,” he explains, noting that the greater St. Louis food scene has become a lot more cosmopolitan of late, with an influx of authentic Asian restaurants and creative food trucks over the past decade. So Cinder House fits right in.
“Prime ribeye and filet mignon are always popular menu items. I like introducing more seafood options and other cuts of meat that people may not be as familiar with.”
Slay was literally born into the local restaurant scene. His grandfather and father each owned restaurants in the city, as have various cousins and uncles. Always a hard worker – “just like my dad” – as a kid he used to hang out with the cooks at his father’s restaurant Slay’s America, where he started to hone his skills and develop a love of cooking.
St. Louis was not much of a food town at the time, however, so after culinary training at a local community college, Slay hit the road to further develop his skills. He spent time away from the city for seven years, evenly divided between New York City and Boston. At the first, Slay quickly worked his way up from chef de partie to chef tournant under the guidance of Daniel Boulud at Boulud Sud; at the second, he was sous chef on the opening team of Bar Boulud.
While his experience cooking for a celebrity chef gave him “a certain swagger,” Slay stayed focused on expanding his skill set, polishing his French and Mediterranean technique, including making pasta at a professional level and growing comfortable at leading the kitchen as well as interacting with clientele. By the time he returned home to sharpen his barbeque skills under a former boss, St. Louis dining had taken off.
“Seeing the food scene in St. Louis gain national recognition and following new openings from afar pulled me back home,” he remembers. “St. Louis is definitely a big city with a small town atmosphere, and the food-and-beverage community is one large family.”
Through everything, Slay says that at heart he’s a humble chef. “I’ve spent my entire life in this business and have worked for some of the nicest people and some of the most challenging. Becoming a Chef de Cuisine for Four Seasons made me realise how challenging I was in the past. Now, as a manager, I am better at helping our team channel their energy and push the envelope with creativity. My goal is to do for them what other chefs did for me.”