Eat Your Way Through St. Louis With Solera’s Chef Jorge Guzman

Jorge Guzman has built a reputation on simplicity. As long as you start with good products, you don’t have to do much to make great food, the chef said.

Guzman has spent the past eight years living in Minneapolis (most recently wowing with Spanish tapas at Solera), but despite cooking throughout the country for more than 15 years, there’s still one place Guzman calls home: St. Louis.

“There are a bunch of great little pocket neighborhoods where everything is really different,” Guzman said.

You’ve got the Soulard neighborhood packed with dive bars and restaurants, and the affluent metro West Bend where the hipsters tend to congregate. Then there’s the central West Bend area, where Guzman first dipped his toes in the culinary scene at the traditional French restaurant, Chez Leon.

 “I had no idea what I was doing. I had never worked in a kitchen,” Guzman said. “I cooked at home.”

But Guzman quickly found that food prep work and expediting came easily to him. Between the people and the energy of the restaurant, the 17-year-old was hooked.

“I fell in love with it,” Guzman said. “That’s when I decided that was what I was going to do.”

For the past 15 years Guzman has cooked his way through the Midwest: in Des Moines during college, then Chicago (Dunlay’s on Clark and D.O.C. Wine Bar) and now, Minneapolis (Tejas, Corner Table, Solera).

While Guzman hasn’t lived in St. Louis since graduating from high school, he still visits family there every year. And you can bet money on the first place you’ll find him when he gets back to town: Imo’s Pizza.

“The minute I get home, that’s what I want,” the 34-year-old said. “I like it cold, I like it the next day. I don’t care. It’s a staple of St. Louis. It is St. Louis. If you’re from St. Louis, you know Imo’s Pizza.”

If you’re from the gateway to the west, it won’t be any surprise that Guzman also lives and breathes the Cardinals. There’s a sense of community surrounding the hometown team that echoes throughout the entire city, Guzman said.

“There’s a lot to offer in St. Louis, you just have to know where to find it.”

Luckily, we’ve got an expert. Stay tuned this week as the St. Louis raised chef shows us around his hometown. Up first: