Local Artisanal Food
We take a look at Kansas City’s food scene with some of KC’s top chefs and their local suppliers. Here is a chance to hear from those who not only prepare your food, but who cultivate the land where it is grown and/or raised.
Her favorite days used to involve grocery shopping lists, Julia Child re-runs, and baking and cooking for family and friends. That was when Celina Tio was 8. She knew early on she wanted to be a chef, thanks to the positive influence of her brother, father and grandfather.
After earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Drexel University, Celina started cooking at Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. By age 23 she had become the chef of the hotel’s Grill Room.
Wanting a broader challenge and audience for her cooking, Celina moved to Orlando, Fla., to work for Walt Disney World. There she helped open two specialty restaurants: Spoodles, which features Mediterranean cuisine, and Citricos, specializing in Southern French dishes.
Celina became known during the following seven years heading the kitchen at Kansas City’s renowned American Restaurant. There she garnered local and national accolades, including 2005 “Chef of the Year” by Chef magazine and the James Beard Foundation’s 2007 “Best Chef: Midwest.”
Celina now channels all that experience into her own restaurant, Julian. In this comfortable neighborhood establishment, she creates the chef-driven twists on American comfort food she calls, “feel-good food.”More about Celina Tio
Owner/Cheese Maker Sarah Hoffmann and Owner/Farmer Jacqueline Smith share a commitment to bring the best farmstead sheep’s milk cheeses, yogurt and 100% grass-fed lamb to market.
Set in the bluffs above the Missouri River Valley about 40 miles northwest of Kansas City, Missouri, the terrain of the farm is steep and rolling with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Our lovely high pastures receive cool breezes in the summer, and low areas offer dense shade and meandering streams for blistering summer days. In winter, the trees offer shelter from freezing winds, and the hills provide our sheep the opportunity to soak up the sun’s warmth.More about Jacqueline Smith
Pope began his culinary career in Madison, Wisconsin working as a line cook while studying economics at the University of Wisconsin. Born in Peoria, Illinois and raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Pope grew up in a family with longstanding culinary roots. The family founded a culinary school called the Antoinette Pope School of Cooking in Chicago in the 1950’s.More about Alex Pope
The energy and excitement of working as a line cook in the kitchen sparked a deeper interest in cooking as a profession. He moved to New York to pursue a degree in culinary arts. Pope attended the Institute for Culinary Education and earned a dual degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management. During his time at the Institute for Culinary Education, Pope worked under chef Bill Peet at New York’s Pair of 8’s restaurant.
With credentials and some experience under his belt, Pope moved to Kansas City for the next stage of his culinary apprenticeship. Pope selected the American Restaurant as his first destination in Kansas City. His tenure at The American Restaurant had him work under two James Beard Award-winning Executive chefs: Celina Tio and Debbie Gold.
In the fall of 2009 Pope was tapped to oversee the opening of R Bar Restaurant as the Executive Chef. The restaurant featured seasonal, eclectic American fare with a continually changing menu. Accolades soon followed from local publications including Best Chef 2010 from The Pitch and Best New Chef from KC Magazine. In 2011, Pope was nominated for Food and Wine Magazine’s, Best New Chef in the Midwest region.
Pope left the R Bar after two years in order to pursue different directions in the culinary field. He currently co-owns a culinary consulting company, Popka Group which consults on menu creation at new and existing restaurants. Pope also co-owns a catering company, Vagabond, which specializes in pop up restaurants.
In February of 2012, Pope opened an artisan butcher shop called the Local Pig which specializes in fresh sausages made from locally sourced animals using old-world seam butchering techniques. The Local Pig partners with many area restaurants to supply Kansas City with premium, local, heritage meats and sausages.
As a Kansas City native and Johnson County Community College culinary graduate, Ryan Brazeal had always planned to open a restaurant in Kansas City. After working in several high-profile New York restaurants including two years as sous chef in chef David Chang’s award-winning Momofuku restaurant, Brazeal found towards the end of his tenure he was really focusing on making moves to help him on his way back to Kansas City. “I never intended to bring New York City to Kansas City, ” he says. Instead he focused on the lessons and techniques he developed while cooking in Manhattan to format a business plan and a proposition to redefine New American Cuisine as Novel American Cuisine. Brazeal’s return to Kansas City was promptly followed by the opening of his restaurant, Novel, on the Westside in 2013. “There’s an emerging market to move away from the barbecue and give Kansas City its unique culinary identity,” he says.More about Ryan Brazeal
Michael Smith’s degree from the University of Southern Colorado may have been in psychology, but the culinary arts are where he is most adept. Most chefs and restaurateurs would also agree, that psychology is the perfect foundation for a career in the culinary business. Following college, Smith began his career at Chateau Pyranees in Denver under Chef Jean-Pierre Lelievre and later, Chef George Mavrothalassitis. In 1985 he traveled to Nice and Cassis in the south of France, cooking and learning, and was struck with the French approach — artisanal products and fresh, local ingredients.
Returning to the Sates in 1987 he became the first Sous Chef for Charlie Trotter in Chicago. Two years later he returned to Nice to be the Executive Chef at L’Albion. Upon his eventual return to Chicago in 1991, he worked as Co-Chef at Carlos’ in Highland Park, then Executive Chef at Gordon until 1994. Moving on to Kansas City, he took over The American Restaurant and while there, won the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Midwest 1999, which was a first for Kansas City. Smith later also won The James Beard Awards Best Restaurant Design in 2002, for Forty Sardines, his Overland Park restaurant.
Smith is still winning awards, with 2011 Pitch Magazine Readers Choice “Best Chef Kansas City” and now two years in a row, KC Magazine “Best Chef” 2012 and 2013. His most recent honor is the prestigious Menu Masters Chef Innovator award for 2014, bestowed upon him later this month in a ceremony in Chicago.
His newest venture is a duo of restaurants under one roof at 1900 Main Street in Kansas City’s Crossroads Art District. Eponymous Michael Smith and Extra Virgin may share an address, but not much else. Namesake Michael Smith is the epitome of fine dining and high class with a 500+ Wine Spectator awarded cellar, while Extra Virgin is a trendy Mediterranean tapas restaurant with one of the city’s coolest al fresco dining areas and a spectacular bar that complements the adventurous menu.
Michael not only owns and operated two of Kansas City’s best restaurants, he has a busy schedule of guest chef appearances around the country and abroad and is sought after by the media as an industry spokesperson.
Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor. She is also The Star’s restaurant critic and curator of the Chow Town blog. She has won more than 25 national writing awards, and her work has been included in the “Best Food Writing” anthologies of 2008 and 2011. She is the author of The Star’s “Eating for Life” cookbook, the mastermind behind Food Truck Friday and a past president of the Association of Food Journalists. She loves Brazilian food and makes a mean flan.