I wish I would have written this letter to you years ago, to tell you how much I loved your restaurant 40 Sardines and the food that you so lovingly prepared there for so many of us year after year. I wish I would have told you "Thank You" for all that you have brought to the KC food scene, and for being one of the first women in this city to rise to this level of accomplishment long before now. But instead, I find myself reaching out to you during a most difficult time.
I heard from a friend that you have decided to close your restaurant 40 Sardines after 7 years of service to the KC community. The same one you and Michael Smith opened together in 2002, after you both won the James Beard Award for Best Midwestern Chefs in 1999 while working at The American. It was our very first James Beard award in Kansas City. You were the first to reach that pinnacle.
40 Sardines was your first place together, after your rein at The American, and oh how we all could not wait for you to get your doors open and try your food.
When I heard your voice on your answering machine saying you were "closed for remodeling" my heart instantly sank. As a Marketing Director for a restaurant chain not that long ago, I remember when I was asked by the President of the company to go to the local sign company and have "Closed for Remodeling" signs made for a restaurant that we intended to close permanently. It is was is said in the restaurant business, when there is nothing else to say. Everyone knows what those words mean.
Restaurants are like Chef's children. As hard as they are to give birth to,
they are even harder on your soul when you have to mourn their death and move on. In these circumstances you worry not only about yourself, but the people who work for you night in and night out . . .in the weeds or out . . .you worry about what they will do when you close. It is what makes you a leader and human. We mourn the loss of this restaurant with you.
The epicurean messages boards in KC are filled with posts of love and support from all of the hundreds of Chefs that you mentored in that restaurant over the years. The most interesting one I read talked about the fact that you are not only a great pastry chef, but also an inspired Executive Chef who because you *get* both savory and sweet allowing you to get way up and see the entire meal unfold and what flavors to place where to make for the most harmonious experience. That is a huge skill set that seems to come second nature to you. You make it all look so easy, night after night. But you not only nurtured the careers and inspired the professional Chefs who worked for you, through your famous cooking classes at your restaurant you educated many foodies and Chef wanna -be's on your craft and you made all of us better cooks. Period.
You care about the community you live and work in and gave freely of your time and have supported to many, many charity events every year with your restaurant, your food and your presence. I was starstruck at the opportunity to chat with you in person at last year's Forks & Corks event about your dish. You seemed warm and lovely and full of intense energy as the line of people to sample your food at that event grew, you spoke to all of them.
You are one half of the culinary powerhouse that put Kansas City on the map as having a vibrant and noteworthy food and restaurant scene. Behind you has come many wonderful Chefs, some of them also James Beard award winners or nominees.
You have never walked in anyone's shadow. In our minds, you stand separate in your culinary contributions to the city and to this restaurant, as evidenced by your separate kitchen spaces at 40 Sardines. You had your side and Michael had his - separate but equal. You are part of the reason that the rest of the culinary world woke up to recognize Kansas City as not only the friendly Cowtown and BBQ capital it is, but also as a place to get exciting, delicious and creative cuisine from top Chef talent.
As sad as we are are to see this restaurant close, I can only assume that it must have been difficult to be the ONE to continue to stay and run the labor of love that you and Michael jointly opened . . .it must have taken balls of steel and guts galore to walk into that place every day and face your staff and adoring clientele and act like everything was all going to be alright. I think if it were me, I might also feel relieved to have that place and those memories behind me. With freedom and a new start, one of my own choosing, in front of me.
If you stay in Kansas City we will rejoice at watching the next chapter of your life unfold, if you must leave we understand and are a better food town for having known you and kept you with us for as long as we have. You have made a difference.
We value you, not only as one of our great Chefs, but also as a human being.
You have all of our best wishes, good luck. Your future awaits.