Each year, we honor the seasoned pros who continue to push the envelope in the local food-and-drink scene, from restaurateurs to artisans to hospitality pros.
Mary Guccione, Cellar + Plate
Mary Guccione knows how to make guests feel at home. Most evenings, you can find her perched at the door of Cellar + Plate, her Springfield wine and tapas bar, where she greets guests by name and dishes out hugs. A first-level introductory sommelier, Guccione also presides over the wine bar’s impressive selection of vino, which she carefully crafted herself. The warm atmosphere of the place is a testament to Guccione’s belief in community – a concept that, if you ask her, is best discussed over tapas. Overall, Guccione hopes to combat the city's somewhat lackluster communal dining scene, which, in the past, has been limited to small plate menus at otherwise traditional eateries. Cellar + Plate isn’t her first try. Several years ago, she opened – and eventually closed – Sorella’s Table, an Italian pop up in a downtown Springfield event venue. Now, Guccione focuses on bringing people together the best way she knows how: through wine, small plates and casual events, including pumpkin painting parties and drag queen brunch. It’s all part of her grand plan to get Springfield residents to slow down, catch up with friends and refine their palate.
Cosmo Kwon, Bawi Korean BBQ
For some time, Cosmo Kwon has wanted to bring elevated Korean food to Springfield diners. “I want people to know there is more to the cuisine than Korean street food,” says Kwon. With Bawi Korean BBQ, which opened in July 2018, Kwon achieved that goal. At the restaurant, patrons sit in booths equipped with a built-in grill top, where they personally grill the meat of their choice. As the main course sizzles, friendly staff deliver banchan (an array of side dishes) to the table – it’s a gratifying all-you-can-eat experience. “This is how my family eats,” says Kwon in reference to the authenticity of the fare and the presentation. “[At Bawi], we strive to provide a cultural experience and educate through food. We want [our guests] to become fully immersed in their meal.” In a city with less diversity than those with a larger population, Kwon believes that food can teach us to find similarities in our differences and create a bridge across borders.
Doug Riddle, Team Taco
With a baseball cap in one hand and a generous pour of mezcal in the other, Doug Riddle is revamping Springfield’s approach to fast-casual grub. As part owner and beverage director of Team Taco, Riddle is behind the popular spot’s agave-centric cocktail menu, pouring adventurous concoctions such as the Mezcal Mule and the Oaxacan Old Fashioned. If Riddle looks familiar, it’s because he’s spent the past decade making waves in the city’s growing cocktail scene. He started as head brewer at Mother’s Brewing Co. and then designed the upscale beverage program at the now-shuttered Social on Patton. Now, he’s putting his expertise to use to make Team Taco a destination beyond its namesake. Riddle’s cocktails feature seasonally influenced ingredients and flavor combinations that are light on the palate and heavy on the attitude. After closing time, he can be found elbow-deep in the various stages of fermentation, whipping up loaves of sourdough with friends. When asked about his next move, Riddle admits that he isn’t entirely sure. However, one thing is certain: Although a veteran of his craft, Riddle gives the impression that he’s just getting started.
Melissa Young-Millsap, Urban Roots Farm
It’s safe to say that Melissa Young-Millsap has always had a green thumb. Known to friends as “Farmer Mel,” she spent summers scurrying between her grandparents’ farm and part-time jobs at greenhouses and peach orchards. Now, she’s applying her expertise to agricultural outposts in southwest Missouri and beyond. As the co-founder of Urban Roots Farm, Young-Millsap is best known for establishing a farm-to-table concept in the city’s neglected west side. Along with her husband, Adam Millsap, Young-Millsap purchased the Urban Roots property in West Central, a historic and predominantly low-income neighborhood on the outskirts of downtown Springfield. The couple spent the next eight months lobbying city council for permission to cultivate the land as an urban micro farm. Fast forward to today; Urban Roots is a successful working farm with community outreach programs, including gardening classes and produce donations, as well as regular farm-to-table dinners for local foodies. Young-Millsap is also working on another agricultural project in northwest Arkansas, where she’s the farmer-in-residence at Red Barn, Arkansas’ first “agrihood,” or agriculture-based neighborhood. There, she’s doing what she does best: cultivating the land and the community that surrounds it.