Witness Jeff Lefko - a Broadmoor Technical Center graduate - who is bringing Concept One, a farm-to-table pop-up restaurant, to the Dan Meiners Studio from June 18 through June 21. Lefko has partnered with fellow Broadmoor graduate Elise Landry on the planning and menu. Concept One will seat 65 people per night for a $60 three-course dinner. The Pitch caught up with Lefko and Landry via e-mail to find out about their project.
Pitch: Where did the idea for Concept One come from, and how did you come to the space at Dan Meiners?
Lefko: I first heard about pop-up restaurants when I was in L.A. two years ago. I told myself that when I was confident in my cooking and management abilities, no matter the age, I would open a pop-up restaurant. Concept One is an opportunity for me to get valuable experience running a restaurant without the risk of owning a traditional restaurant.
Lefko: Since I live in San Diego during the school year, I knew I needed some help with the restaurant. Elise and I met at the Broadmoor Culinary Program, and she is the only person I have met (that is my age) that has the same type of passion and vision for food as I do. I knew that if I could partner with her, then we would be set. The funny thing about our situation is, Elise and I will not see each other in person until the week of the restaurant. All of the planning has been done over the phone and through e-mail. Elise and I have been speaking about once a week for the last two months. Elise is the most earthy and natural person that I know, so naturally she handles our relationships with all of the local farms, and ordering the produce. My job has been to promote the restaurant to the Kansas City community and to get the word out about what we are trying to accomplish with Concept One.
Landry: I think we complement each other nicely, with my experience in kitchens and Jeff's knack for business and our mutual love of food, [and] we're able to collaborate on some great dishes that reach heights greater than our own individual ideas. We will both work on recipes and do a majority of the prep when service time comes, I'll be running the kitchen, and Jeff will be overseeing the whole operation, front and back of house
Lefko: I started off being passionate about food, but recently, this passion has turned into an obsession. Living in San Diego has showed me that I need to cook and to be around food in order to be happy. For me, I know that on a culinary level, Elise and I have the ability to give the diners some awesome food that they have never seen before. However, the food side of the restaurant is just one part. The challenge will be with all of the other aspects. I don't expect everything to run perfectly from the get-go, but it is dealing with the arising adversity that will really give me the valuable experience. Organization is the most important aspect of giving the diners the best possible experience, and Elise and I have worked very hard to be organized throughout this whole process.
Landry: Jeff came up with this idea on his own, and I feel incredibly fortunate that he thought of me and asked me for my hand in this. It was only a matter of saying "yes," and I haven't looked back since. This project is truly a test of our skills and knowledge, and we're both ready to see what amazing things we can do with a simple concept. I think Jeff and I are both go-getters, and nothing is impossible if you have the right attitude.
While you're still in the early stages of your cooking career, do you believe that you have a vision for the kind of chef you are and want to be in the future?
Lefko: I don't like being constrained to one type of category. Though people would say that it is just a lack of experience, I want to understand all types of cuisine. In my opinion, the only way to really enjoy long-term success in the food business is to be able to adapt to the ever-changing tastes of diners. Initially, I want to travel to cities across the U.S. and give each city the type of restaurant that they are yearning for, whether it is a farm-to-table restaurant in Salt Lake City or a hole-in-the wall barbecue restaurant in San Diego (hint hint).
Landry: Personally, I want to feed as many people great food as possible. I think it's a strong maternal instinct I've got that makes me want to take care of people, on top of the fact that my dad is from Southern Louisiana and hospitality has always been a huge influence growing up. I'd love to open a small cafe and bakery someday with a great ambience for people to sit and relax and eat yummy baked goods and sandwiches, and have some evenings open for a more fine-dining experience with several courses and wine pairings.
Beyond the food itself, how are you hoping to connect diners with the local farm scene or the origins of what's on their plates?
Lefko: Kansas is blessed to have so many amazing local farms, and there is a good percentage of the people that doesn't realize how easy it is to get their food from these local farms. Not only is it better for the diner, it also supports the local economy. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. This is something that is very important to me. Guests of Concept One will be able to see where each individual ingredient on the plate originated. Additionally, our guests will be connected with the local farmers, so that they too can enjoy the benefits of eating fresh and local food.
Landry: I personally visited several of the farms we will be getting produce from. I helped out with the growing process and took some great pictures of the farms and the people who run them. We will have stories on the menu about our new friends and the products they grow. By attaching a face to their meal, I think the diners will be impacted and remember the names of these farms and companies and continue to support them.
Based on the name, we have to ask, is there a Concept Two in the works?
Lefko: The beauty of the name Concept One is it leaves plenty of room for future concepts to come. Right now, my main focus is Concept One, but there will definitely be others, stay tuned.
Landry: Not yet! But I hope Jeff will let me tag along (and maybe even help!) if he decides to do another pop-up. First, let's tackle Concept One and make it the best it can be.