With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I have a confession to make. I just love Foodie boys . . .Chefs, in particular, really do it for me. Female Chefs (and home cooks) are kindred sister spirits and I enjoy their company and council as well, but it's men who don the apron everyday that are intoxicating to me. I am such a food groupie dork, sometimes. Forget rock stars, Foodie boys are my thing. Give me an Anthony Bourdain, Alton Brown, Jamie Oliver or Tyler Florence any day of the week. I want to travel with Tony, learn from Alton, grow my own food with Jamie . . .and as for Tyler . . .well let's keep this posting clean, shall we? Meow!
I think the attraction for me is the opportunity to converse with men who like to talk about and do the same things that I like to talk about and do . . .wait, sounds like the beginning of a beautiful relationship, doesn't it?
Things such as:
Discussing the time you tasted a foie gras and wine pairing so good it made you weep.
"Loving the fish" with your favorite knife, while portioning it perfectly without a scale.
Knowing how good bread, fresh from the oven, smeared butter tastes in the morning with your 3rd cup of black coffee.
The feeling of putting on your clean apron now that your morning prep work is complete.
Passionate stories of war wounds suffered on the line, showing the scars that back them up.
Intimately sharing the tips, tricks and favorite tools of the trade with total strangers.
It's the intensity, the passion, the precision . . .it is the art and science of FOOD.
I feel a certain love and respect for: a person in uniform, the leader of the pack, the picture of strength and endurance under pressure, a person who believes that style, grace and panache can be represented on a plate, the pleasure and power of knowing you are nourishing your guests while stimulating their eyes, nose, mouth, body and heart and soul all at the same time and finally the passion and desire to wake up every morning and want to do it all over again.
We are so lucky to have so many talented Chefs who call KC home, and at one time or another I'm sure I have had a crush on all of them . . .but right now these are the ones that have peaked my interest and continue to tickle my fancy as I watch and wait to see what amazing trick they have up their sleeve next. I will use a Wizard of Oz - "If-I-only-had-a" scale to define my areas of interest with each of them.
Chef Jonthan Justus (Justus Drugstore in Smithville, MO) - Courage. Jonthan had the courage to move back to Smithville, after cooking in both San Francisco and France and rehab his folks old drugstore downtown, and pray that people would be willing to drive up and eat at his place if he made the restaurant, the experience and the food THAT memorable. He has succeeded with flying colors, the press (including myself) have awarded him the Best New Restaurant of 2007 and believes that he has something unique and personal going on up there in Smithville. His food is innovative, but accessible. Fancy but inexpensive. Fresh and foraged. May we also give him a huge round of applause for creating opportunities to enjoy 1/2 glasses of wine with each course. But aside from the inspired "country mouse meets city mouse" food he creates . . . the fact that he does table visits and really takes the time to sit down and educate you on what you are eating and where it came from is the most impressive thing about him. Now that takes courage!
Chef Josh Eans (The Drop in the Martini Corner) - Inspiration. Who hasn't been to The Drop and tasted Josh's lively and creative take on Bruschetta? Josh has taken simple bar food and elevated it into a category all of its' own with this one dish. He has inspired knock-off Bruschetta's in every restaurant in this town. (I even heard a rumor that the Chef in the corporate cafeteria at Hallmark, was snooping around to come up with a version of Josh's Bruschetta that would keep the Hallmark employees eating on campus instead of walking the few blocks up to The Drop for lunch everyday.) Chef Josh was also recently named Chef of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association. He is not a one trick pony, with a menu that he continually updates and tweaks with new flavors and ingredients as they come in season. His mushroom soup was so good I craved it for weeks. He introduced me to peppadew peppers. With his talented and lovely wife, Abby-Jo, back in the kitchen with him whipping up craveable pastries for The Drop . . . they are keeping it all in the family. I find that inspiring!
Chef Marshall Roth (Vinino & McFadden's formerly with Hotel Phillip's Chophouse and 12 Baltimore) - Heart. This talented Chef was thinking with his heart when he moved to Kansas City to be closer to his father. After signing on at the Hotel Phillips he quickly set to work revamping the entire menu and kitchen operations which earned him rave reviews all over town. His Duck Fat Burger is a legendary symbol of all that is rich and good and tasty in this world. He made us all better people for feeding us Duck Fat Burgers, and we voted him the best burger in town. Our cardiologists love him too, no doubt. In a short period of time he put Hotel Phillips on the map for it's great restaurants, something unheard of in downtown KC at the time. After moving into one of the rooms at the hotel, he realized he was on call 24/7 taking time away from his family, which was the reason he landed in KC in the first place. So, he made the heart-wrenching decision to leave Hotel Phillips and go work his re-invention magic as a consultant with ECI who own Vivino and McFadden's - two of the biggest, most visible restaurants in the new KCP&L district. These two restaurants who used to share a kitchen, and a great address right across from the Sprint Center also shared the most completely average dining experience in KC. He has his work cut out for him, they need a new Sheriff with a culinary vision over there and Marshall is the man with the heart for that kind of work! KC Magazine also named him one of the Sexiest Singles in this city. Agreed.
Chef Rob Dalzell (1924 Main, Souperman, Pizza Bella, ChefBurger) - Brains. Talk about having an impressive master plan from the get-go. Rob Dalzell comes back to Kansas City, pairs up with his powerhouse father and slowly begins buying up interesting little places all over the Crossroads. Faster than you can say, "Boy Wonder", he has done what many of the big name celebrity chefs are doing - creating a strong main brand with 1924 Main, and then using the strength of his stellar reputation in that venture and spreading it to open new concepts, not the same concept, but different ones, thus diversifying and bringing his food and his message to the masses. Not everyone would have the desire or means to shell out the cash it takes to eat at 1924 Main every night, but they can sure eat at Souperman. It allows him the ability to spread his food cost across concepts, to share human capital giving him the ability to give good employees a career path, thus keeping them longer . . .a rare opportunity in the fickle restaurant business. He is doing it at the right time, in the right places, with the right monetary support . . .and with the right skills and culinary talent to back it up. It wouldn't mean anything if his food wasn't really, really great. Smart and successful - a deadly combo!