Chef Joe West quietly announced on his Facebook page that he would be launching his new pop-up restaurant called Kusshi this Spring in Kansas City. His first dinner was held in early May at The Rieger Grill & Exchange and by all accounts, Chef Joe wowed the foodies that flocked to sample his multi-coursed dinner.
West is a talented and familiar face on the Kansas City food scene. He started his career at the age of 16 in kitchen of 40 Sardines with Chef Michael Smith and Chef Debbie Gold as his teachers. West left Kansas City after a few years spent some time in Las Vegas, starting as a sous chef of Stratta at Wynn Las Vegas, then moving to the chef de partie position of Michelin 2 star, Alex of Wynn Las Vegas.
Moving back home to Kansas City, he accepted a prominent position as chef de cuisine at Bluestem restaurant with husband and wife owners Chef Colby Garrelts and Chef Megan Garrelts. West was glad to be home, working for one of the best restaurants in town, in a city that he loved.
“It was working for Colby at Bluestem, that I began to learn the importance of restraint and honoring simplicity in my cooking. I was the chef who was always trying to show you, as the guest, everything I was capable of on every plate,” said West.
West elaborates, “Colby taught me while I was working for him to slow down and see the beauty in each individual ingredient in a dish, and it was that revelation that has informed my cooking since and inspired my pop-up, Kusshi.”
After several years at bluestem, honing his craft under Garrelts watchful eye, he decided the time was right. With a plan in place, West gave notice at bluestem to pursue his dream of opening up his first restaurant in Kansas City he planned to call “Kusshi.” After several months of searching for financial backers and the right space for the concept, West was frustrated and decided to shelve the dream until he could figure out a way to finance it and still make a living for himself.
Looking for a fresh start and a chance to run his own kitchen, West then moved to Cincinnati, OH to accept a position as Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage of The Cincinnatian Hotel. While he was in Cincinnati, West put his head down and went to work, but all the while he was trying to figure out how to get back to Kansas City and get Kusshi financed and back on the front burner.
It was in Cincinnati, West met another young chef named Ryan Santos, and the two chefs did two dinners together as part of Santos successful Cincinnati pop-up restaurant called Please. Seeing how Please was allowing Santos to do his own food, West watched Santos, after 4 years in the pop-up restaurant business, use a combination of private investors and Kickstarter to crowdfund his new brick and mortar restaurant that he plans to open this Fall in Cincinnati.
If all goes well for West with Kusshi, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Santos and use these pop-up’s as a stepping stone to opening his own brick and mortar in Kansas City.
With that ultimate goal in mind, West is furiously planning multiple first 7-course menus which he plans to roll out every 2-3 weeks with new dinners.
“I’m planning to do dinners about every 2 weeks once I get rolling,” said West who knows the enormity task that lies ahead of him.
People can expect a 7-course fixed menu, and he plans to charge $100 per person, but he explains he really has no rules or regulations on what his dinners might look like going forward. He might play with the format or different cuisines at whim.
“I named my pop-up Kusshi, which means “precious” in Japanese, because no matter what I am cooking, I want to make meals that honor each ingredient, treating them like they are precious,” said West.
The next Kusshi dinner will be on May 31st at the Prairie Birthday Farm. To learn more, or purchase your seats now go to: www.kusshikc.com.