Do you cook on an open fire at your house? No? Imagine taming a hearth to churn out enough food to appease a restaurant dining room full of hungry customers. That’s exactly what Mike Randolph wanted to do in his new Latin American restaurant, Público. The design challenge was threefold: Affordably convert a hair salon into a chic restaurant; with the guidance of the chef/owner, create an unorthodox kitchen that revolves around the hearth; and orient the restaurant around the open flame. The budget was tight, so we had to work with a short run for the hearth’s ventilation system, which relegated the hearth to a back corner of the dining room.
Since this was the first wood-fired, open-hearth kitchen in St. Louis, we worked closely with the local regulatory bodies to get it approved. (The only other heating element in the kitchen is an induction cooker — a glorified hot plate.) We designed and built the hearth based on pictures the chef provided. The rest of the space was inspired by the hearth’s fuel: charred wood. Wood in the space is ebonized with ashy grain, including the chunky bartop and trees above the booths. Natural black steel is backlit on the bar die wall, and steel is the backdrop to the bar, while steel sheets of it float above it. The bar dominates, with high seating and a low backbar to provide a view of the fire and the chefs in the kitchen.
2015 American Institute of Architects-St. Louis Distinguished Award in Interiors
6679 Delmar Boulevard
University City, MO 63130