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Taste of St. Louis

Chef Taste declares Amber Nicol, (second from right) of Oakville as the winner of the Budweiser Taste of St. Louis Home Chef Throwdown in Chesterfield on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, as contestant Laura Inglish, (left), looks on. Nicol will advance to compete on Sunday against Anheuser- Busch Executive Chef Sam Niemann who will have to use her winning recipe for Zesty Pretzel Fried Chicken with King Beer Cheese Sauce. Emcee Mike Ulman, (right), looks on. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

Like a culinary prodigal son, Taste of St. Louis is returning to downtown St. Louis.

This year’s event will take place Sept. 13-15 at Soldiers Memorial Park. For the past five years, it has been held in Chesterfield’s Central Park and Amphitheater.

New ownership is bringing the 15-year-old fixture back to its original location.

“I was looking at photos from before, and I was envious of that, of those crowds,” said Chuck Justus, executive director of the new ownership organization, Taste It Productions.

More people came to Taste of St. Louis when it was actually in St. Louis, he said. And the area around the Chesterfield site was becoming increasingly residential. An event drawing hundreds of thousands of people can cause havoc to a neighborhood, he said.

But Chesterfield will not be left out in the cold. Soon, perhaps next year, Justus said he would like to hold what he called an “appropriately sized” food event there.

Taste It Productions, which took over ownership of Taste of St. Louis at the beginning of this year, is made up of three companies: Klance Unlimited, which provides stages, fencing and other infrastructure for large events; Green2Go Rental Power, which handles electricity and lighting for festivals; and Event Ops, which produces events.

“We’ve all been involved in Taste of St. Louis for the last 14 festivals, so we know it,” said Justus, who runs both Green2Go and Event Ops.

Although this year’s event will be back in the same location as the first several, the footprint will be smaller. Justus said he wanted to avoid closing 14th Street, which he sees as an important thoroughfare.

Still, he expects more people to come and more restaurants to participate, at least compared to the Chesterfield events, even in the smaller space.

“Some of the engagement from the downtown restaurants dropped off, and certainly the Metro East. We want to feature more restaurants from the Metro East,” he said.

Restaurant applications are going out now. A committee will select which ones are accepted, he said, and they expect to have around 35 participating this year.