The New Normal

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Different but Still Delicious

By Dave Eckert       @eatsanddrinkswithdave

As the aftershocks of the Covid-19 earthquake continue to rattle through the Kansas City restaurant community, area chefs, general managers, food and beverage managers, and restaurant staff across the board have been scrambling to find solid footing. Restaurants, chefs, and managers have been forced to re-invent themselves. I found several examples of what I’m calling “the new normal,” which, of course, isn’t normal at all.



I caught up with Laura Comer, Executive Chef of The Dining Experience at The Kauffman Center as she and her staff were preparing to cater a wedding following all the Covid-19 safety protocols at the Kauffman Center. It was the first time Comer had seen or worked with her staff since the pandemic shut down the restaurant and cancelled all events at Kauffman back in March. Since then, events have been cancelled through the end of the year, and Comer is the only Dining Experience team member to be called back to work. Her emphasis has shifted from beautifully designed and executed three course seasonal menus and large-scale catered events to what she calls “macro events.” Those are weddings, parties, and celebrations for as few as 15. “We have over 350,000 square feet, so we can hold an event that hosts 100 people and still be socially distanced,” Comer told me. “What we’re doing now is spreading the word. As we head into the holiday season, typically our busiest time of the year, we have open dates. We have a special wedding package for people who might have lost their venues because of social distancing People have the chance to hold their event: a wedding, retirement, birthday, or holiday party at one of the most beautiful and iconic locations in the city when normally they would not.”



In a normal year, Comer and her staff would be gearing up for large holiday gatherings for 500, 600, or more. But, remember, this is the “new normal,” so Comer and The Kauffman Center are offering her innumerable talents and its amazing space on a first-come, first-served basis. And, she emphasizes that it’s being done in a strictly sanitized and spaced environment. “People get their temperature taken when they first come in. Masks are required except when you’re eating or drinking at your table. And, the entire space is sanitized from top to bottom,” Comer pointed out. If interested, you can reach out directly to Comer at lcomer@kauffmancenter.org or contact The Kauffman Center’s business director Lisa Voss at lvoss@kauffmancenter.org.



Bradley Gilmore got a solid Covid kick in the stomach a month ago when the owners of his restaurant group unexpectedly pulled the plug on the two restaurants Gilmore was most closely aligned with: Saints Pub + Patio and Ignite Wood Fire Grill. At first, it looked like Ignite would be coming back under new ownership with Gilmore at the helm as Executive Chef, but now, it appears the space will be sold and developed into a different restaurant concept. The sudden shift in the landscape left Gilmore shell-shocked. “We were having weekly meetings and I knew it wasn’t going great. The owner called me one day and said, ‘Can you meet me for dinner. We’re closing.’ It definitely blindsided me,” Gilmore shared.



Like Comer and The Kauffman Center, Gilmore is also turning to catering, forming a company with his wife and sous chef. “We’re going to launch our ghost kitchen in November with four concepts, delivery and pick-up only. The idea is to give folks elevated cuisine that is both accessible and affordable. We want to provide a five-star experience whether it’s in your home or at a wedding or other private event,” Gilmore said.  We will be adjusting the concepts and areas we deliver to based on what people want and what we can provide. The bottom line is more people are dining at home, and we want to tap into that market.” If you’re interested in seeing what this is all about and what type of food options Gilmore is providing, you can reach out to him at www.kravinitkc.com and @kravinitkc on Instagram.

They are clearly catering to the crowd at Chaz at The Raphael. The famously intimate, romantic dining spot was closed for quite some time during the early months of the pandemic, reopening to socially distance mandated lower numbers. So, Executive Shawn Hartwig and Food and Beverage Director Jordon Carver put their heads together and came up with a new season of wine-themed outdoor events called “The Patio Series.” They have proven wildly successful to the point where extra dates are mandatory, and the events sell out in a matter of hours. “We’re known for our wine dinners, but we couldn’t really do them inside with half as many seats and tables.  We have this gorgeous patio, so chef and I thought we could close off the driveway, socially distance the tables, and move the dinners outside. It’s been a huge hit,” Carver told me.



Of course, all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately, that includes both the early fall weather and The Patio Series, which wraps up in early October with this event: Come say “Au Revoir!” to patio season with a five-course dinner inspired by the wine and cuisine of France at The Patio Series: A French Farewell,” Carver sent me in a recent email. The dinner will be inspired by Hartwig’s three years of cooking studies in Saint Malo, France with outstanding French-inspired cuisine, and, of course, some delicious French wine from some of that nation’s finest appellations. Tickets are $75 per person and include the full five-course dinner with wine pairings. It will sell out quickly, so if interested, head to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-patio-series-a-french-farewell-tickets-122409864199.

The New Normal. It’s different, for sure, but every bit as delicious!

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