"It gives me a little bit more insight into food and wine pairings and a chance to banter with the guests," Wesemann says.
Wesemann, 29, is always moving, even when seated for an interview. He remembers growing up in Harrisonville, eager for something more. He found it in high school on weekend adventures to Overland Park and Kansas City.
"I remember going to Yia Yia's in the '80s. That was when they had flavored creme brulee, and you taste it and just go, oh my God. Then it was on to Dean and Deluca to bring home flavored oils and vinegars that you couldn't find in my small town," Wesemann says.
His mother's parents owned a bakery, and he grew up baking all the classics: lemon meringue pie, cookies and cream puffs. Wesemann enrolled in Truman College for a year, making friends in the tiny kitchenette a few doors down from his dorm room.
"We just wanted something that wasn't cafeteria food. It was lasagna and crab chowder. I'd cook anything, and people would just come. It was a nice way to bring people together," Wesemann says.
Then he thought about pursuing a linguistics degree and teaching English in Japan. But his creative outlet, something he did on the weekends, slowly became his focus. Wesemann decided to enroll in the three-year chef apprenticeship program at Johnson County Community College. In his second year at JCCC, he joined the culinary team, staying after school an additional four hours to work on creating a perfectly cubed piece of carrot. The culinary team taught him about presentation, organization and time management, while his two-year apprenticeship at the Peppercorn Duck Club taught him about working in a commercial kitchen.
"The first day I was there, they put me on the grill. I was cooking steaks and making bar food for the sports bar. I didn't know how to a cook a steak, but I thought, 'Well, let's go with this,' " Wesemann remembers.
He cooked his way through the line at Skies and spent his last semester, before graduating in 2005, in the bake shop at Crown Center. And there he discovered that placing cookies on trays for a banquet of 3,000 people was not going to be his calling in life. Wesemann was hired on at the American that same year and continued on at JCCC to pursue a degree in Food and Beverage Management. He went to school two nights a week, served lunch two days and cooked four days.
"I was at the American every day for a year that it was open. I was either serving or cooking. Once I started serving, I felt like my food took a big jump," Wesemann says.
He got to know customers' preferences and what it was like for a server to have to place a plate of food before that customer, even if the server knew that something wasn't perfect with a dish. His move from savory to pastry was natural. It started when he asked then executive chef Celina Tio if he could run the station on the pastry chef's day off (Saturday). Tio, in turn, challenged him to learn how to execute new preparations, such as molded chocolates. When the pastry chef left in 2006, Wesemann took over the position.
"I had free reign. I got to bring in more of my personality over time and make something that people wouldn't expect but they'll love eating," he says.
His approachability has gained Wesemann's dishes — like the sea-salt ice cream (currently paired with the Nickers bar, a chocolate torte with cashew caramel, bacon candy, nougat wafer) — a following at the American.
Wesemann can't help but wonder what it would be like to cook in Chicago or New York City.
"Some day it would be fun to go to a bigger city with a restaurant that has as good a reputation as the American or maybe open up my own place where you could could have one or two savory courses and then five desserts," Wesemann says.
Until then, he'll just keep pushing boundaries at the American and on the dessert menu.