Eat St. Louis episode 1: Nathaniel Reid Bakery

| Reporter

Illustration by Emily Talkow

In many ways, food is more than just sustenance. It inspires conversations, holds cultural importance, and tells the chef’s story. Student Life Staff Writer Emily Talkow presents Eat STL, a new series that profiles chefs in the St. Louis community. In this episode, Talkow visits Nathaniel Reid Bakery in Kirkwood, MO to explore everything from croissants to communication.

You can listen to episode 1 of Eat St. Louis on Spotify or Apple Music.

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

NATHANIEL REID (0:00-0:24): It’s cool for me if it’s six years now and you know, I still have people, I have people stop me all the time when I’m out about in life, outside of this place and telling me about how it’s made some meaningful moment in their life. And I think that’s makes it special for me to keep coming back and doing things that aren’t always easy and putting in the time and the effort is, I feel like there’s a sense of purpose to it.

EMILY TALKOW (0:28-0:46): I’m Emily Talkow and your listening to Eat St. Louis, a Student Life Production. I like to think of food as more than just sustenance. For many chefs, it’s the way they tell their story. And throughout St. Louis, there are so many unique restaurants and chefs whose stories are equally as equally as interesting. Eat St. Louis dives into the lives and food of some of St. Louis most interesting chefs.

NR (0:49-0:53): My name’s Nathaniel Reid. I’m the chef and the owner of Nathaniel Reed bakery. 

ET (0:53-1:07): Nathaniel Reid Bakery in Kirkwood, MO, about a 15 minute drive from WashU. I’d heard of this bakery for a while as being one of the most critically acclaimed in the area. Talking to Chef Reid opened my eyes to the behind the scenes of his success. 

ET (1:07-1:11): Has food always been an integral part of your family and your life?

NR (1:11-1:36):  I think just by culturally, a lot of like the get to- festivals, holidays, get togethers and stuff. They just seem like they’re around food and like all, a lot of the good memories I have of my childhood. It’s like food playing a central role in that. So whether it’s like having like a cool family fish fry, To, uh, my mom baking all these chocolate chip cookies, whatever, I mean, there’s a lot of the best memories I have of my childhood are just food and family. 

ET (1:36-1:39): Did that help lead you into the food industry? 

NR (1:39- 2:24): Well, I always liked to cook and, um, it was interesting how it, I guess it kind of happened of why I was cooking. Like I played a lot of sports and a lot of activities in high school. And then, uh, for some reason, like they didn’t really always like save me dinner. I’d get home late from these things, so I would be cooking my own dinners and things like that pretty regularly. And I just got into the habit of doing it and liked to do it. And I always liked to like, I more experiment with food when I was younger, not making anything successful, but it was more kind of science and fun mixing stuff together. Um and just seemed like everything was centralized around the kitchen. Like that’s where we hung out. We’d sit on the countertops in the kitchen, talking, siting there, eating, it was more of a family room than a kitchen to me.

ET (2:21-2:38): Hearing this, I couldn’t help but think of my own experience back in high school, when if I got home from practice so late that there was no food left, the only two things I could competently make were eggs or a bowl of cereal. Chef Reid and I moved on to talking about how specifically he got into the niche field of pastries that he has found his home in.

NR (2:29-3:20): I like, uh, the creativity of pastry and, um, it’s, it’s art to me and it’s like, uh, art. You don’t actually really need it in your life. You don’t have to have pastries to be something, to get nutrition or do those things, but it’s something like, like art it’s in excess in a good way. It makes us happy. It makes us have, uh, celebrates a lot of different holidays. I like the creativity of it that you can do different shapes. You can do different, uh, colors that you want. And there’s a lot of more freedom to it. And artisticness to it than there is in savory cooking normally, right? I mean, if somebody gets a steak there’s a conception of what it should look like, right? When somebody gets so deserted, you can really play with that a lot more artistically.

ET (3:21- 3:39): I was here earlier this summer and was just talking to someone in line and was asking them what they typically get when they come here and they said that the croissants are just their favorite croissants. They’ve been to Paris. They’ve been all over France and nothing compares to Nathaniel Reids’, croissants. How do you make them so perfect?

NR (3:40-3:58): That’s awesome wow. I don’t know that we’re ever really making them perfect. But we’re trying hard to do as, you know, the best we can and everything. We have like a lot of quality control in place, along the way and systems in place that try to keep it as consistent as possible every day. And that’s really a big part of it. 

ET (3:58-4:07): So, Chef Reid has cooked and traveled all over the world. We talked a bit about his experience and the culture of food abroad, and then brought it back to what makes the St. Louis food scene so special. It almost sounds like food in St. Louis aims to feel like home; comfort; familiarity. 

NR (4:08-4:38): yeah so I’ve had the opportunity to work a lot of different places in the us. I mean, both coasts and, and everything and in the Midwest. And it is interesting what people are looking for what sells like, um, I think people like things that they’re familiar with here, that seems like, uh, a good thing. So, and I like that type of product too, but like, you know, apples, lemons, caramel, chocolate, vanilla, raspberries, strawberries, you know, pretty guaranteed, delicious, very accustom types of things.

ET (4:38-4:42): And even beyond what we know, Chef Reid seeks to make the unknown more familiar. 

NR (4:42-5:30): And so like when we did the Queen Aman at the beginning I was wondering if I should call it a salted caramel croissant, do I call this a Queen Aman? What’s the reaction? So let’s just call it a Queen Aman see what happens. And ya know you don’t have to know how to say the things or pronounce ‘em or what it is. And it’s most of the time people just like hand gesture, you know, the round thing. And we’re like, we know what it is, you know, we’d love to get you one. Or they point to it or call ‘em queens or whatever it is stuff but you know but I think it’s been fun too to make things that aren’t. The flavor profile of like a salted caramel croissant is very recognizable by flavors of what this idea is but it’s still not a familiar product at that time and in St. Louis so it is neat to bring new products to the markets too, even though there’s some familiarity with it.

ET (5:30-5:43): Even further than taste profile, Chef Reid has a very intentional storefront. It has like an almost homey feeling where it’s familiar and there is some some eccentricity and some things that you don’t know but you feel comfortable with it.  

NR (5:43-6:20):Yeah, and I mean, that’s purposeful. That’s by design. I wanted a place where it looked familiar still. you know, so idea was is that like anybody would kind of feel comfortable walking into the place. We’re, you know, trying to curate this experience for him, guide him through this and like, um, few make them feel comfortable. And hopefully there is some unique things they can get here that they haven’t had before, but there’s, uh, a relatability to it. Like, like, uh, if we do some kind of crazy looking cake and all this and, but it’s chocolate and raspberry. So even, I don’t understand it by the look I can understand that this is chocolate.

ET (6:20-6:25): With this familiarity, this comfort, this consistency. it can be hard to stand out. 

NR (6:25-7:11):  I’m not a journalist, but to write a story about man, this is such a consistent product at this place. Doesn’t really grab the media. But if you show somebody once told me, if you want to get attention, you make something very small or very large. And that’s kind of the same concept. You know, you have to stand out. In those bigger markets I get it like there’s lot of competitions, you have to make your space in everything, but I like what we do here. It’s still, it’s challenging for us. It’s um, like trying to make a chocolate chip cookie the best you can make it, trying to make a croissant, which is a very familiar product or macaron. But, but have those little differences about it that it’s super flaky, that it’s perfectly baked, that the laminations are just right. And that’s, I like that challenge of making, uh, commonplace items like extraordinary.

ET (7:12-7:33) Chef Reid has succeeded in making the ordinary extraordinary. He has found his niche here in St. Louis. We talked about how is from Missouri and has family here. So when deciding where to open their bakery, this same theme of family and familiarity tied in. Quality of life was another. Thinking about the cost of life and the cost to own a bakery in St. Louis versus a bigger city like New York City was a big factor.

NR (7:34-7:53):  I mean the expense of New York, I mean, how many croissants do you have to sell to make your rent? You know? And, uh, and some is also, you know, the, the um, with quality of life, depending on what you were looking for in a quality of life, I like to be outdoors. So the big, bigger, some of the bigger cities can’t offer that.

ET (7:54-8:00): Chef Reid and I then moved to talking about passion and career. Specifically, he talked about the importance of communication as one of the most crucial skills.

NR (8:01-9:41): I believe so much in communication is just such a big foundation and of our business and, uh, of being successful. And it’s kind of weird to talk to a young cook that came outta culinary school and you’re like, hey, communication’s so important and you’re not talking to ’em about these like really awesome knife skills or something that you know they’re really expecting you to talk about. And it’s cooking’s you, that’s why they’re here. They want to cook it’s to me, it’s the easy part, but to wake up and be like, I can’t wait to be super consistent and professional and communicative and stuff is like probably not most of the cooks and people are waking up dreaming that right? There’s no right or wrong way for everything in life. No, there’s no book that’s been written that’s the blueprint for success for everyone. There are guidelines. There are structures or things in place that are generic, that work for most people. And they can lead you to success either quicker or more certainly, but everybody still needs to find out what it is for them they’re trying to go for and be successful. And, and that measure is measured entirely different to each person. The clearest thing for me to always say is to walk straight in a straight line towards those things. So, you know, what you’re passionate about and what you can see yourself doing today is probably very different than it was 10 years. And in 10 years from now, it might be different. So it just, you have to go with the punches of life a little bit and understand that some of the doors are gonna open and close and not be nervous about it happening. But be organized, make your best plan to give it your best effort, go straight towards your goals. 

ET/NR (9:41-9:49): Thank you.  well, she thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I really appreciate this.  yeah. Thanks for giving me the opportunity. ET (9:49-9:59): Stay tuned for future episodes of Eat St. Louis. In the meanwhile, head to to check out our current issue and other recent stories. For Student Life Media, I’m Emily Talkow.

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