This is a culinary collaboration between local photographer, graphic designer and chef Amante Domingo, and Canadian culinary and cupcake entrepreneur, Heather White, who signed the lease last week on this unique space.
Located next door to Gates Bar-B-Q on Main Street, the building was chosen because it has the space and amenities needed for the duo to run a successful food business out of it, while still maintaining a timeless appeal tied to Kansas City’s past.
Preserving the history Kansas City through the buildings he owns is important to the building’s owner, Dick Keller, who will maintain his office upstairs from the new restaurant and catering kitchen.
“Dick Keller owns several buildings in the area, and he has always had a real vision for wanting to maintain the history and heritage of the buildings he owns, while thoughtfully restoring them into functional places the community can use and enjoy,” says Domingo.
Several other entrepreneurs had looked at the former flower shop which had sat vacant for several years, but the partners believe it was their vision for wanting to create a quality locally-owned catering and restaurant business in the space that would only be open for breakfast and lunch, and occasionally for catered dinners, that ultimately appealed to their landlord.
“We both have young families, and so quality of life is important to us as we move forward, building this business,” says White. “The plan is for us to start by booking our catering first, as we finish out the space, then open the restaurant, market and bakery second.”
The partners met while working together on a project together, and when they realized they both shared the same entrepreneurial spirit, they started talking about collaborating on opening their own business.
Domingo grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri on his families’ organic farm, selling produce to chefs at the Farmers Market downtown. They owned a small family restaurant when he was in his teens, where he got his first taste of restaurant life. From there, he worked his way up in various kitchens in Kansas City, from dishwasher to the line, at restaurants like Kona Grill on the Country Club Plaza, to earn extra money at night while studying photography, web and graphic design by day.
“I hesitate on calling myself a chef, because I do not consider myself the focus of this restaurant, I’ll have a fantastic team in the kitchen helping me, besides any good chef knows, the real celebrities in the food world are the growers and producers, and that is what we intend to highlight at The Russell, through the local ingredients we purchase, the food artisans we collaborate with and by simply having a menu that changes with the seasons,” he says.
White grew up in British Columbia, and in 2002 started a cupcake business with her best friend, Lori Joyce, called Cupcakes by Heather & Lori, which grew quickly into a sweet empire, with 11 locations across British Columbia and Ontario. The two friends also starred in their own reality show on about their cupcake business called Cupcake Girls. Their stores are known for their uniquely delicious cupcakes, made with quality ingredients, in flavors like black sesame, mango and matcha green tea.
She moved to Kansas City with her husband and young son, a little over two years ago, when her husband accepted a job that brought him here. She has kept her interest in her cupcake company in Canada, where she says she is in contact with her partner on the day-to-day business.
“We are in the process of buying back all of our franchise stores to make them company stores, and we are also rolling out a line of ice cream to pair with our cupcakes, so we have a lot of business to talk about, right now,” says White with a smile.
She says she will head up the bakery inside of The Russell, using her baking knowledge and management skills to lead a small team that will create all the breads, cookies, cakes, and, yes, cupcakes, that will be used in both their caterings and in the restaurant. People will also be able to pick up special orders, or shop the bakery, as well as their market which will offer a wide range of grab and go items, including boxed lunches and dinner kits.
The restaurant and bakery will be open from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, and will serve a light continental breakfast of coffee and pastries in the mornings and for lunch there will always be a special or two served, along with a fresh menu of soups, salads and sandwiches that will be offered with an emphasis on keeping the menu affordable.
The space is a little over 2,500 square feet, with plenty of seating for those who choose to stay and enjoy a meal. They eventually plan to host some themed dinners in their space that they plan to sell tickets to people who want to attend.
Construction of the kitchen at The Russell is just beginning, and at the heart of it will be a large wood-fired oven, similar to the kind that Argentine chef and master of the fire, Francis Mallmann, made famous by demonstrating how to use and over stove it to do everything from boil water to roast vegetables in the coals to grilling meat on over an open flame.
Domingo does not plan to install a stove, choosing to challenge himself to use only the wood-fired oven to create the dishes he plans to make for both catering and restaurant.
“I know what I am signing up for, and the way the stove will be designed is that I can drop racks down directly into the flames or pull them up to, say, let the fat from a roasting chicken, drip over a pan of root vegetables below,” he said. “I am going to learn to use it for everything, and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
There is a full basement in the space that was likely once used as a cooler for the flowers, but the partners think it will eventually make a great wine cave, or a place to age their cheese or charcuterie. Again, they thank their landlord, for the opportunity to bring this building back to life at The Russell.
“Trust me, we plan to show our appreciation to Dick, by naming a sandwich after him,” says Domingo. “That will happen.”
The Russell, 3141 Main Street, Kansas City, Missouri, therussellonmain.com