24 Hours with Michael and Tara Gallina of Vicia

To say 2018 was a big year for Michael and Tara Gallina, the husband-and-wife team behind the Saint Louis, Missouri-based restaurant Vicia, would be an understatement. In addition to Vicia being named a 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist, a Top 50 New Restaurant by Bon Appetit, a Best New Restaurant in America by Esquire, and Michael being named a Best New Chef 2018 by Food & Wine magazine, the duo also welcomed their first child, Olivia. Here, the chef and front-of-house maven—both alums of Blue Hill at Stone Barns—take us through a typical day of parenthood, food prep, and managing their nearly 2-year-old restaurant.

6:15 a.m. TARA: It’s wake-up time for our daughter, Olivia. Michael and I alternate mornings in terms of who gets up and takes the early shift. After a giggle session with Little Miss, we head downstairs for some play time and coffee. I try to let this time be totally focused on her and hold off on emails if I can help it.

7:45 a.m. MICHAEL: I look forward to Tara and Olivia coming back up to our room so she can get her ready for her morning nap. It’s also the perfect alarm clock for me to get up and start my day.

8:30 a.m. TARA: Olivia takes her morning nap and I use this valuable time to get a head start on work (and have my second cup of coffee!) while I can. I catch up on the nightly manager’s report from the evening before and check out the reservations for the upcoming evening. Then, I tweak “the book” to ensure we are maximizing our seatings and looking out for special guest requests.

8:30 a.m. MICHAEL: I’m in charge of making the daily smoothie (tons of frozen blueberries, this great local milk, oranges, almond butter, and yogurt). Tara and I catch each other up on our upcoming day, and I share menu ideas with her that came to me throughout the night. She always gives me great feedback and ideas. We like to ask each other, “What can I do to help you today?”

10:30 a.m. MICHAEL: I head out for my morning errands before heading to the restaurant. Today I stop by my favorite butcher shop, Bolyard’s, where we get our grass-fed beef. Then it’s off to Salume Beddu to pick up this incredible local charcuterie we serve at the restaurant. Selfishly I really love this time in the car to clear my head and listen to sports talk radio to hear the latest on the St. Louis Cardinals.

10:30 a.m. TARA: Olivia is bright eyed from her nap and ready to take on the day. The daytime team at the restaurant is arriving for lunch and it’s time to check in and start fielding emails. I manage our private event bookings and balance responding to leads, writing contracts, and briefing our team on the day’s events while playing with Olivia and feeding her throughout the morning.

12:00 p.m. MICHAEL: I arrive at the restaurant, check in with the lunch crew, and start setting aside the ingredients I need for my projects before dinner service.

12:30 p.m. TARA: Time to squeeze in a quick lunch while Olivia takes her afternoon nap. Today it’s grilled chicken from last night’s dinner mixed with rice and greens tossed with some lemon and olive oil. I alternate eating lunch with a few house chores while I have a conference call with a corporate client to discuss their dinner being hosted at the restaurant next week.

1:00 p.m. MICHAEL: We have our daily meeting with the cooks to talk about the evening’s dinner service. We go over projects and share tasks for new dishes. Today I’m teaching our garde manger cooks how to prep for our new charred broccoli and wheat berry salad going on the menu tonight.

2:00 p.m. TARA: I arrive at Vicia with Olivia before our weekly manager meeting. I check in with our reservationist to catch up on how the day’s reservations are looking, do spot checks throughout the restaurant to ensure everything is looking just right, and gather my notes to lead the meeting. Olivia loves to hang on the kitchen with Michael and watch the cooks while I bounce all over.

2:30 p.m. TARA and MICHAEL: We lead the manager meeting and discuss the logistics of our plans to add Saturday lunch service.

3:30 p.m. TARA: Michael puts up a few dishes for me to take pictures of and share on our Vicia Instagram.

4:00 pm: TARA and MICHAEL: We grab some family meal (today is pasta bolognese day) and take turns eating and holding Olivia while standing in the kitchen and going over last-minute details before dinner service.

4:15 pm: TARA: Time to say goodbye to Dad and do one more check-in with the team before heading home with Olivia. I’m not working the floor during dinner service tonight—I’ll be staying in with the baby.

4:30 p.m.: MICHAEL: I lead lineup for our front of house staff and go over all the details for each item on the menu this evening. Tonight, I’m excited to feature a new grilled beef rib dish on our tasting menu.

4:30 p.m.: TARA: Olivia takes a catnap on the way home, and since we live super close to home I sit in the driveway and answer emails until she wakes up.

5:30 p.m.: MICHAEL: Dinner service begins. We have several large parties coming in to do our Farmers Feast menu, so it should be a nice mix of quick pickups and a team effort to get all the plates out for the parties.

7:00 p.m.: TARA: Bedtime for Olivia starts with bath time, jammies, reading Madeline, and lots of snuggles before feeding her and putting her in her crib. Then I give our two pups, Abby and Louie, some love while sitting on the couch and wrapping up some private events contracts.

8:00 p.m.: MICHAEL: One of our farmers, Dave Bohlen, makes night deliveries and shows up with this beautiful dried painted mountain corn that we grind fresh to make polenta.

9:30 p.m.: MICHAEL: Service wraps up, I recap with the closing sous chef on the night’s projects, and head home. I sneak a peek at Olivia snoozing to say goodnight.

10:00 p.m.: TARA and MICHAEL: Michael catches me up on how the night went and I share some funny photos I took of Olivia after her bath. We watch an episode of Seinfeld, decompress, and get ready for bed.

10:30 p.m.: TARA and MICHAEL: Bedtime. We never know how many times Olivia will get up throughout the night, so we try to get as much sleep as we can. Dad is on morning duty tomorrow, then it’s time to conquer another day as a team!

Photograph of Michael and Tara Gallina by Jonathan Gayman. Vicia is featured in The Scout Guide Saint Louis.