Above: Aaron Confessori (standing), Romain Monnoyeur (sitting), Kevin Mouhot (standing)
Photo credit: Landon Vonderschmidt
When Aaron Confessori, chef owner of Westport Café and Bar, realized he was going to be losing co-owner and chef, Richard Wiles, he knew it was critical to find just the right person to take over the kitchen at the six year old restaurant they built together.
He found two instead.
Confessori welcomes the addition of two new French co-owners and chefs to the Parisian-inspired bistro: Kevin Mouhot and Romain Monnoyeur.
The two chefs came to Kansas City years ago to work an internship at another French restaurant, Café de Amis in Parkville. After their internship, they each moved around to bigger cities cooking and working in Europe, New York and Orlando. But they liked Kansas City, there was plenty of work opportunities, friendly people and a low cost of living.
Starting the process to look for a new chef, Confessori got a phone call from a friend and business contact, telling him that he knew of two very talented French chefs who very much wanted come to Kansas City to live and work.
He agreed to meet with Mouhot and Monnoyeur, and felt the two of them were a perfect fit for Westport Café and Bar. They reminded him of he and several of his chef friends when they were just starting out. Friends who started cooking at a young age, who graduated from culinary school at the same time and decided they made a great team and sought opportunities to work together.
“I was young when I first started in this business, and I was given incredible responsibility and opportunity at a very young age, so I want to provide the same for these two,” says Confessori.
It was a perfect pairing, but there was a catch -- both chefs needed visas to stay in the country and work at Westport Café & Bar.
Confessori took on the challenge, working with his lawyer for over a year negotiating special visas for the two that requires that they be “co-owners” in the restaurant to stay. He went to Wiles and offered to buy him out, which then cleared the legal path for the two new chefs to step into their new positions legally.
“It was a long process, I spent 365 days, created an 800-page document, spoke to the US Embassy and basically paid what it took to keep these two chefs in Kansas City for the next 5 years,” says Confessori.
When asked what will happen to two chefs after the 5 years is over, Confessori says, “Their visas are renewable, but I am almost positive that these two good looking guys will both be married to nice Kansas City gals by then.”
Mouhot will serve as co-owner and general manager at Westport Café & Bar, and will oversee front-of-house responsibilities. With a degree in marketing and hotel management from the BTS Hôtellerie Restauration, Mouhot’s background includes high-end hotels and restaurants across Europe and the United States with previous hospitality positions at The Dorchester Hotel in London and Epcot Center's Monsieur Paul in Orlando, Florida.
Monnoyeur will work as a co-owner and executive chef for Westport Café & Bar, bringing his nine years of French-style cuisine and restaurant industry experience to lead the kitchen operations. Additionally, Monnoyeur intends to slowly incorporate his culinary point of view, with plans for new or enhanced menu items later this spring.
Westport Café & Bar, 419 Westport Rd, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.931.4740, www.westportcafeandbar.com