An exploration of Midwest cuisine and local culinary history unfolds this month in "The New Midwest," a four-month series of collaboration dinners at The Savoy. Executive chef Joe West developed the dinner series and will team up with the following local chefs:

  • Tue., July 30: Ryan Williams of Rye Leawood
  • Tue., Aug. 20: Rick Mullins of Café Sebastienne and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Thu., Sept. 26: Spencer Knipper of Urban Table
  • Tue., Oct.22: Kelly Conwell of Stock Hill

Food and beverage director Scott Tipton will prepare cocktail and wine pairings to accompany each course. Each meal will conclude with dessert by Savoy pastry chef Tia Throckmorton.

“I have personally been on a journey and search for what the Midwest means to me. It’s a complex topic that doesn’t have clear distinct answers,” West says. “Everyone has their own story. My personal story is about a half-Japanese kid growing up in a middle-class family in the middle of America, eating green bean casserole, mac 'n' cheese and beef stew [as well as] tempura-fried green bean snacks with kewpie mayo, Japanese fried rice and stir fry.”

West’s work with local farmers and study of food throughout his career influenced his interpretation of Midwest cuisine. The chef says he “focused on the strong seasons that we have here in Kansas City and the Midwest. My own cultural background has had an impact on the way I cook, and I feel like we are influenced by our surrounding communities as well.”

The New Midwest provides an opportunity for participating chefs to use their “full range of their creativity,” explore the boundaries of Midwest cuisine, “and maybe break a few with the intention of making delicious food,” West says. “This series allows each chef to be authentic and cook the food that they want to cook. Each chef has their own story and their own point of view when it comes to food. They are a product of Kansas City. They represent our city and the Midwest just as much as any other chef in the area.” 

"The New Midwest" dinner series is also a reunion of sorts. When West was chef de cuisine at Bluestem, he worked with sous chef Ryan Williams, chef de partie Rick Mullins, sous chef Spencer Knipper and pastry sous chef Kelly Conwell. 

“I consider each of these chefs to be friends of mine. I’m proud of everything they’ve accomplished,” West says. “They have strengths and styles that will allow each collaboration dinner to stand out.” 

As a Kansas City native, West has worked with notable chefs throughout his career. At the tender age of 16, he worked at Forty Sardines under James Beard Award winners Michael Smith and Debbie Gold. He gained experience working with Bluestem chef-owners Megan and Colby Garrelts. Later, West introduced the pop up Kusshi to Kansas City in 2015 and helped open Stock Hill in 2016. Elsewhere, he worked in various chef roles at Wynn Las Vegas and The Cincinnatian Hotel before returning home to Kansas City and leading culinary operations as executive chef at The Savoy.

“Kansas City has always felt right to me. I feel good when I’m here,” West says. “It has always been a dream of mine to make a name for myself in my hometown. Kansas City means a lot to me, so I have a personal stake in The Savoy’s success.”

"The New Midwest" series reflects West’s dedicated effort and leadership to shine a spotlight on local culinary talent. 

“I am passionate about hosting these guest chef dinners. I want our community to meet these chefs, who are working hard every day and have a voice of their own in Kansas City’s culinary landscape,” West says. “Several chefs and restaurants in the city continue to push forward with quality and creativity. Personally, I would love to see locals supporting the city’s quality chefs and getting to know who is making a difference in our city. At the end of the day, we all want to cook great food. Bringing guest chefs to our kitchen will be fun for the team and our guests. That’s what the culinary scene of Kansas City is all about. We want to have fun and make people happy.”

Tickets to The New Midwest series are $100 per person (excluding tax and gratuity). Guests may make reservations for the 6pm seating by calling the restaurant at 816.443.4260.

The Savoy at 21c Hotel, 219 W. Ninth St., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.443.4260, thesavoykc.com

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Writer Pete Dulin is the author of Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail, and Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries Across Central Kansas and Missouri.

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