Five-year-old Elliot Eans is hiding under his bed. He's not in trouble or scared. He's just happily eating his way through a bag of Snyder's of Hanover Buffalo Hot Wing Pretzel Pieces alongside his dad, Josh.
The son has inherited the taste buds of the father, the chef and co-owner of Blanc Burgers + Bottles.
"He sees that I love spicy stuff and he wants to eat like I do," Eans says. "He'll want to eat hot, pickled vegetables for breakfast, and I'm like, can't we just wait until lunch."
Elliot is not much younger than Josh was when he first started cooking his own burgers. Eans grew up in Phoenix, working the grill alongside his mom.
"I had a spice mix. I can't remember what," Eans says, "I put special seasoning on it, just so I could call it my own."
These days, there are plenty of memorable options at Blanc. The burger joint has been on a tear since moving from Westport to the Plaza last February, introducing a second location
at Mission Farms in Leawood. The Circle Restaurant Group (David McMullin and Ernesto Peralta are also partners) opened and shut a
more affordable concept, B:2 A Burger Boutique, in Lee's Summit, before
launching their third Blanc location in Omaha, Nebraska, in January of
Without a chef in the family, Eans never envisioned working in a kitchen. He spent a year at Arizona State University. But even a full-ride academic scholarship couldn't convince him to stay on a pre-med track. So he moved to Kansas City to try and find himself. While participating in a service-oriented, young-adult program at Metro Christian Fellowship in Grandview, Missouri, he found someone else -- his wife, Abbey-Jo.
At that time, he knew two things about Kansas City.
"The people were nice, and I liked Jack Stack barbecue," Eans says.
They rented a house in Belton and began to talk about what they wanted for their lives together. Josh wondered what it would be like for them to own a restaurant. Abbey-Jo suggested that they enroll in culinary school. The pair was accepted at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Arizona.
After the 15-month program, they took an externship with the Sea Island Company in southern Georgia. Josh got his first taste of fine dining, which led to a position as a commis at Seeger's in Atlanta.
"I learned then that it's less about one technique and more about excellence, about embracing excellence in everything you do and doing things right all the time," Eans says.
When Abbey-Jo got pregnant, the couple decided to move back to her hometown of Kansas City. Elliot was born shortly after Josh took a job on the line at 40 Sardines.
"I learned how to be busy -- very, very busy," Eans says.
While at 40 Sardines, he began consulting for a new bar and bistro concept called the Drop. Consulting turned into cooking, and Eans' first position as a head chef was in the narrow kitchen at the back of the Martini Corner restaurant. With McMullin and Peralta, Eans kicked around the idea of a gourmet burger spot in Westport. The response to Blanc was unexpected.
"We thought we might do a bit of business, probably OK at lunch. But it picked up steam fast," Eans says, "and I feel like we've been playing catch-up for the past three years."
Today, he shuttles back and forth between Leawood and Omaha. The arrival of Henry in January, Elliot's younger brother, has mellowed Eans. He admits that he's less idealistic, and a request for Heinz Ketchup won't set off a diatribe like it might have at the old space in Westport. Although, when I ask him if Blanc has Heinz on hand, he offers a firm "no" in response, suggesting that the lecture is still there if I want it. While Heinz won't be on the menu, Blanc is currently in the process of tweaking its burger lineup with new items that should launch by the end of this month.
"I want us to keep our focus and make sure that people are still having a different and unique experience each time they come to Blanc," Eans says.
And if history repeats itself, Kansas City should be ready for some buffalo-wing-style pretzels from the kitchen of Elliot Eans in about 25 years.