Fast-talking, 31-year-old Michael Corvino may not be the obvious choice as the American's new executive chef - his first time in that role. But it's clear that Corvino, who has a tattoo of a sweet onion on the inside of his right elbow in honor of his hometown, understands the challenges ahead for the restaurant.
"People come for an occasion," he says. "It was the same battle at the [Rosewood] Mansion [on Turtle Creek]. We want them to come more often. I want to pack this place."
Marshall Roth - the tall, outspoken talent who used to run the kitchen at Hollywood Casino's Final Cut Steakhouse - gets credit for putting the Reserve's new chef on my radar.
"His name is Shaun Brady," Roth told me in May, when he called to say that Geoffrey Van Glabbeek, the executive chef at the 10-month-old restaurant in the new Ambassador Hotel, was leaving town. "He's from Ireland and has exceptional credentials." (Roth left Kansas City several years ago to take a job in Wichita as the executive chef of the Ambassador Hotel in that city.) "I think he's going to make a name for himself in Kansas City."
Brady, 33, has reason to believe his own hype. After all, few young chefs get to open their own restaurants. Fewer still are 22 when opportunity doesn't just knock but insists by leading a tour of prospective restaurant locations.
The food at Burgers American Grill (770 SW U.S. Highway 40, Blue Springs) isn't fancy, but it's also not the usual fast-casual. Havercroft, 31, is offering things like hand-shaken lemonades, milkshakes flavored with fresh fruit, and double-fried french fries.
The former Saddle & Sirloin Club executive chef got into the burger business in Blue Springs for a simple reason: "I'm hoping I can work hard now for me, so that I'll have more time to spend with my family," he says.
Stearns, 27, is kidding - mostly. But until he picks out the car for his version of *Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, he's trying to turn Independence into Flavortown. He arrived at Ophelia's in June 2012, after graduating from Johnson County Community College and working as the sous chef at Taste with Jonathan Dallen, a friend. Among his changes has been the addition of short plates, including that hit short-rib dish: short ribs braised in plum wine and served with sweet-potato hash, crispy onions, blue cheese and a bacon glaze. It's part of his effort to attract diners to Independence Square from his native Johnson County.
"I want people to know that I'm back there in the kitchen, cooking for them," Stearns says. "I think if we use a few ingredients and cook them perfectly, then people will keep coming back. This is fine dining that doesn't take itself too seriously."
The Pitch sat down with Stearns after a recent lunch service to find out what he thinks is off-the-hook.
The Pitch sat down with chef Max Watson at Remedy recently to talk inspiration, ingredients and ice cream. The first part of our interview, in which he shared his start at Room 39 and cooking in an Airstream trailer, ran yesterday.
"My mom was running food up and down stairs while she was pregnant with me," Watson says of his mother, Leslie, who had no choice but to take him to work with her at Annie's Santa Fe on the Plaza. "She said I got her so many tips. I've been in the business since before I was born."
Twenty-six years later, Watson is back running food - his food. Watson, the executive chef at Remedy Food + Drink, leans back from a table in the Waldo dining room and watches plates leave his kitchen on a recent Thursday. He can't help but begin his story with his mother's kitchen.
"My mom had every intention of being a chef," Watson says. "She attended the CIA [Culinary Institute of America] but didn't graduate for financial reasons. So when I was growing up, we would spend an entire Sunday morning making pâte à choux. She set the groundwork that it was OK to cook."
Yesterday, she talked about her education and excitement about returning to the Kansas City restaurant scene. Today, she shares the secrets to her desserts and where she turns for inspiration.
In 2006, she took a job in the kitchen at McCormick & Schmick's to help pay for college. In her first few months there, a knife slipped out of an oyster shell, gouging a hole in her hand, and a loose refrigerator door took a slice out of her left eyebrow. She didn't miss a day of work.
"All we do is play with knives and fire," Foster says. "The other day, I caught a towel on fire. I just looked down, and it was on fire. It's never not exciting in a kitchen."
The Pitch: What's your favorite ingredient?
Welsch: Garlic - it goes with everything. I had garlic ice cream. It was delicious. They candied it. You knew it was garlic, but it wasn't strong. I loved a chilled garlic soup. Garlic is like salt and pepper and wheat. It's the basis of our tastes.
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