It’s no secret that the food and cocktail culture in Kansas City is hot, landing top spots on national rankings for its bars and restaurants as well as BBQ, coffee, beer, stadium food and chocolate. Several of the area’s top food and cocktail experts make up the faces of KC’s America’s Creative Crossroads lifestyle campaign as they push the envelope of creativity and raise KC’s profile around the world.
Chef Celina Tio owns The Belfry, a whisky bar on Grand Boulevard. A James Beard Award-winning chef, Tio has been crafting delicious food on Food Network shows while opening her first proprietary restaurant, JULIAN and being named Chef of the Year in 2005 by Chef Magazine.
Chef Howard Hannah owns and curates food at The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange and Ça Va, a Midwestern French bistro and champagne bar. As owner of The Rieger, Ryan Maybee first applied his creativity and skill at Manifesto cocktail lounge and recently resurrected J. Rieger & Co., a Kansas City Distillery, after it went dormant following Prohibition. Maybee is internationally renowned for his deep knowledge of spirits, wine and unique cocktail collaborations.
KC Creative and James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Smith also owns his own restaurant, MichaelSmith and Extra Virgin, which operate under the same roof. Patrick Ryan owns and is a chef of Port Fonda Mexican restaurant.
Chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant has been featured on Food Network, where she took home first place in Cutthroat Kitchen. She currently owns and works out of her highly popular food truck, Magnolia’s on the Move. James Beard Award-winning Chef Debbie Gold has also had her moment in the TV spotlight, including PBS, Food Network and Bravo and recently returned to her post as head chef at The American Restaurant in Kansas City.
Although restaurants and cocktails are seeing a major renaissance in KC, so is chocolate and coffee. Danny O’Neill is the founder and bean baron of The Roasterie, one of Kansas City’s top coffee destinations. Chocolatier Christopher Elbow launched his Christopher Elbow Chocolates in the early 2000s. These artisan chocolates have been featured by national media for being one of the best chocolate stops in the United States.