It may not be news to everyone; but there may be many of you that did not know that Cafe Sebastienne – the sophisticated eatery nestled in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art – has a new Executive Chef. Rick Mullins, a native of Hutchinson KS but raised in Kansas City, was brought on board in July 2018. While Rick claims to be self-taught and a culinary school drop-out he clearly has excellent credentials having worked in at least two of Bread & Butter Concepts venues, most recently as Chef de Cuisine at Gram & Dun, as well picking up lots more experience from stints at Republica, Blue Stem, and Roselle Court at the Nelson-Atkins. We asked what got him interested in a career as a chef and he identified the writings and TV food programs of celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain. That and being “more than just a little crazy. Sounds like a great culinary pedigree to us!
We discussed Chef Mullin’s philosophy of food at some length. He reaffirmed what he said back in July to another reporter: “I don’t know if food is art, but I do think that food and art work really well together.” Based not only on the beautiful presentations of the food he creates but the careful thought that is evident in combinations of flavors, colors and textures we are fairly certain that his food is art. And his thought process goes deeper still. He says that when he cooks “the goal is to enhance the experience of others. Each dish is a sharing of myself, a bridge from my thoughts to our guests.” Sounds to us like the thinking of many great artists of all disciplines across the ages.
That said, he is excited that during the course of the upcoming year he’ll be working alongside the culinary team -many long time friends and former co-workers – that he has gathered as well as with other key Kemper staff to continue the series of art and culture themed pop-up dinners they kicked off in 2018. In addition to these cross-over experience events Chef Rick’s culinary programming and menus will incorporate some unique new ingredients [ such as white pine and spruce needles used as garnish as well as pressed for oils] and a story-telling component focused initially on native foods of the Americas and the influence of modern culinary techniques. He likes to use very fresh, local ingredients and local suppliers whenever possible, as do most other KC Originals chefs; but he will bring something else to the table [pardon the pun] – unique produce [items like Amaranth and Quinoa] grown on his own small farm.
Chef Rick views his farming endeavor and foraging trips through the local countryside as a chief form of relaxation; along with sharing meals with his wife. He and his wife also enjoy international travel ; but at home, “she’s the cook – a great one” and when they go out for dinner then it is to more ethnically focused venues such as Mesob [the current favorite] for Ethiopian & Caribbean, El Torito for the Chorizo Tacos, and Jarocho [the KCK location] for everything. Chef says that he likes the “sincerity & honesty” of these smaller venues; “they create their food to be the best it can be – they must do that to succeed.”
So what things are on the horizon at Cafe Sebastienne? January 11-20 is Restaurant Week and the fixed price menus [$33 for 3 courses at dinner] will feature items from the January menu [they change monthly] that has a decidedly Winter flare such as the Airline Chicken breast – our featured newsletter recipe. February’s menu will be influenced by the foods of Central & South America; and naturally there will specials for Valentine’s Day at both lunch & dinner.
As a last word Chef Rick shared his goal for 2019 and beyond. He’d “like to create a new view of Midwestern Cuisine. There is amazing abundance available from farmers and purveyors that we need to honor and share in ways that are creative as well as expressive of who we are at Cafe Sebastienne at the Kemper.” Sounds like a goal we will savor and enjoy being achieved. So make plans soon to drop by for Lunch [m-f], Dinner [Thu & Fri only] or their amazing Brunch [Sat & Sun only] and enjoy top-notch service, an eclectic wine list and Chef Rick Mullin’s out of the ordinary culinary offerings. For more information about Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art or Café Sebastienne, visit kemperart.org.