Joe and Carolina Shirley want to open their own restaurant. But they'll have to wait, at least eight more years.
"Our son, Zion, is 10 years old," Joe Shirley says. "I promised my wife that I wouldn't even consider opening a restaurant until we get him through school. When you own a restaurant, you're married to it."
Shirley has worked in enough restaurants to know that truth. He met Carolina in 2001 when they both worked at the Grand Street Café on the Plaza. Shirley was cooking in the kitchen, under the direction of talented executive chef Michael Peterson. Carolina was a server.
Joe Shirley is now the executive chef for a major bank in Kansas City. It pays well, but there isn't a lot of creative freedom - definitely not the freedom of chefs who operate their own restaurants. (Ryan Brazeal, Ted Habiger and Colby Garrelts come to mind.)
So Shirley is expressing his creativity in Uberdine, a new part-time pop-up restaurant. ("The word über translates as a 'superlative example of its kind or class,' which is what we're doing with dining," Shirley says.)
Serving a prix fixe dinner in an offbeat venue, for rarely more than a few days, isn't a novelty in Kansas City. Chef Alex Pope and food blogger Jenny Vergara have hosted several popular "restaurant/art installation" pop-ups under the name Vagabond since 2011.
Shirley had hoped to partner in some way with Pope and Vergara, "but Jenny declined, saying that she would attend my dinners as a guest and supporter, but that she and Alex were too busy to take on a third partner."
"Since Alex opened Local Pig, we have stopped doing the public events," Vergara says.
Shirley decided to start modestly: a one-night affair for about 40 guests eating a multi-course meal and sampling different vintages. He held a test dinner July 27, a collaboration with Kansas City - based Yummy's Choice, whose Mediterranean foods are sold in area supermarkets.
"I used the Yummy's products in most of my dishes," Shirley says.
He's doing a similar collaboration with the Roasterie September 20 - the 10-course dinner sold out a week after he sent out a notice on his small e-mail list. "The dinner will be in the Roasterie's event space, the Bean Hangar, and almost all 10 courses will feature Roasterie products," he says.
Shirley was considering hosting monthly Uberdine dinners, but after the first event, he discovered that the pace was grueling. "I'm planning to have Uberdine events lasting an entire weekend next year," Shirley says, "or even five nights with two seatings of 40 people each. But I'm going to space them out a bit."
The next Uberdine dinner is in December, tentatively slated for the Bauer Building. It won't be a collaboration.
"It will be my take on a holiday dinner," Shirley says. "My own holiday dinners were a combination of my father's Southern background and my mom's Ozark roots. I'm sure this dinner will be influenced by both."
Reservations to his dinners can be made only by e-mailing him: email@example.com.
Although Joe and Carolina Shirley's future plan is to open a traditional restaurant, Carolina - the former mastermind of the Synergy raves in the West Bottoms a decade ago and now a social-marketing planner - doesn't work the Uberdine events.
"Oh, no," Joe Shirley says. "She's there to have a good time like everyone else."