Eat First with the Eyes

Executive Chef Ivy Magruder takes a wide-ranging view of the city's cuisine with Panorama at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

By Barbara E. Stefàno
Photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton

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When Ivy Magruder took over as executive Chef and General Manager at Panorama, he had to contend not only with the abysmal impressions in its past, but also with an imposing setting in the heart of the Saint Louis Art Museum and its scenic view of Art Hill. Much like the priceless works lining the gallery walls, the offerings at Panorama had to paint a complete picture — one that fit into the context of its times and geography.

“I’ve opened a lot of restaurants. In retrospect, opening is a lot easier because there are no expectations,” Ivy says, remembering the hurdles he encountered when he took the helm in 2014. “This [Panorama] is rewriting a culture.”

“When I first came here, it was pinkies up, very stuffy —and that’s not what St. Louis is about,” he says. So, like any good manager, he began his rewriting with research: He spoke to the Art Museum staff and asked them to define the restaurant. “I did not hear the same answer more than once. When you’re a restaurant and people leave not knowing what you are, you’re not going to be successful.”

Ivy brought over Tony Cole, a chef with whom he had worked during his stint with Vin de Set, and the two “blew up the menu.” Leaning heavily on French and Italian influences and seasonal ingredients, the new menu is elegant, and Ivy strives for each plate to be an approachable work of art worthy of its place in an esteemed institution.

An avid veggie fan, Ivy revels in the colors the garden bring to the plate. Dishes like braised short ribs are paired with potato-parsnip puree, spinach and roasted vegetables and are Panorama crowd-pleasers. His personal favorite is autumn zucchini, kale and mushroom with creamy goat-cheese polenta and vibrant romesco sauce

“It’s beautiful to look at. Being in the Art Museum, we have to be mindful about where we are. We’re hyper-aware — we have a responsibility. I want to make sure that with guests — whether they’re from here or somewhere else — we live up to this location.”

To Ivy, the tie-in with the city is in managing that famous Midwestern hospitality. “It’s putting flowers on the table, making service less stuffy, focusing more on St. Louis,” he says. “Internally, we call it Panorama 2.0. … I don’t think people who were here before would recognize it.”

Panorama serves lunch Tuesday through Friday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant’s monthly dinner series, Art at the Table, takes place on the third Friday of every month. Follow Panorama on Facebook for details.   

See the art of cooking up close with a demonstration of four Panorama menu items at the April cooking school on Tuesday, April 3, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at AUTCOhome.

Cooking School Menu:
Rocket Salad: There’s no nitro to be found on these greens; Rocket Salad is just Chef Magruder’s fun name for this peppery arugula-based dish. Attendees will learn the fine art of French duck confit.

Braised Short Ribs: A seasonal favorite in St. Louis, this dish is hearty and colorful with its addition of crisp spinach and roasted vegetable.

Grilled Eggplant Napoleon: Layers of colorful local ingredients and flavors brings complexity to this piece. Roasted red peppers, creamy goat cheese, Ozark Forest mushrooms and hints of lemon and basil-mint oil create a dish that’s striking and delicious.

Pecan Pie Cheesecake: “I’m not a sweets guy, but this is a delicious fun dessert,” says Chef Magruder. Caramelized pecans are the luscious topping to this decadent dessert.

When: Tuesday, April 3, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $35 per person
Where: AUTCOhome, 1694 Larkin Williams Rd., Fenton, MO 63026
RSVP by calling 636-230-9640 ext. 27 or email bo[email protected]
Reserve your seat online.