What is your role at Bread & Butter Concepts? I’m the Executive Chef at Urban Table with plans to be on the culinary team at G. Berto Cucina opening early next year.
How long have you been with Bread & Butter Concepts? I’ve been with Bread & Butter Concepts for a lift over a year now, since April 2014.
Where are you from originally? My whole family is from Kansas City. My brothers, my father, my grandfather, and myself all went to school at Rockhurst, and my mother went to St. Theresa’s. Several generations of my family have grown up here, so KC is definitely where I call home.
When was the moment you decided you wanted to be a chef? I kind of got into cooking on my own. I dropped out of business school my junior year of college and decided I wanted to cook. My family thought I was nuts. My dad was a lawyer, his father was a lawyer, and my brothers were all professionals of some sort. But signs pointed me to cooking and I took a leap of faith. I liked everything about it: I liked creating things, I liked tasting things, and I liked the history behind recipes and stories behind food.
Briefly take me through your career prior to Bread & Butter Concepts. I started a Bella Napoli and was there for about 2 years. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to culinary school or not, but I knew I wanted to get out and see more. My dad’s friend, who is like an uncle to me, was a writer for the New York Times and had done a couple of restaurant reviews. He suggested I move up to New York, so I made the move and cooked up there for a while until I realized that what they were doing there wasn’t all that different than what we were doing here in Kansas City. I went back to Bella Napoli and then had the opportunity to take my skills overseas where I spent several weeks cooking at one of the top restaurants in Sardegna, Italy. After my visit, I moved back to KC and taught cooking classes for several months until I was approached by Alan Gaylin to join the Bread & Butter Concepts team.
Do you have any mentors or influential chefs you’ve looked up to in your career? Patrick McDonnell has been a big mentor to me. He came into Bella Napoli one day, liked my food, and invited me to a get together at his loft with other local chefs. Since then, he’s introduced me to people, given me tips and has helped showcase me. He’s really more of a good friend now more than anything.
Where does your inspiration in the kitchen come from? My mom is Italian and my Dad is German. My dad’s father made a bunch of classic German dishes. He had a farm where he smoked his own meats, grew his own veggies and honey, and had a stocked pond. My great grandmother was alive during my childhood and is from Italy, so that’s where my passion for Italian food came from. Both sides are really into food, so I got the best of both worlds and an appreciation for food at a very young age. To me, food has always been about the experience of it and whom you’re with; I think Italians grasp that better than anyone. No matter how good it is, no one is cooking as good as their mothers or their grandmothers. I was fortunate enough to grow up having really good food with family, and I’ve always enjoyed those moments.
How has your culinary style changed over the years? I’d say my culinary style has simplified since I first started as a chef. I use fewer ingredients and pay more attention to details and extracting flavors. My time cooking in Italy changed how I viewed food as well. I gained a love for the Italian flavor profile and the simplicity of their food. Italy is more about flavor and how to extract flavor out of a few ingredients.