Executive chef Stefan Haney touts more than 35 years years of culinary experience in the hospitality and restaurant industry. He was recruited by longtime friend and restaurant entrepreneur Merlyn Vanderfort to run the kitchen at Rumor’s Steakhouse, which opened eighteen months ago in Lee’s Summit. Previously, the duo worked together for thirteen years at the Horny Toad, a popular restaurant at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Haney was born in Germany and moved to the United States at a young age. Although he was raised in the Kansas City area, he has traveled throughout the country over the course of his culinary career. “I was brought up in the kitchen,” he says. “I got a good European training, very old school.”
He began as an apprentice in the kitchen of the Crown Center Hotel and later worked at the Westin Hotel for a decade. In Atlanta, Georgia, he worked up to sous chef at the Peachtree Plaza. Haney ran a restaurant in Philadelphia’s competitive dining scene for eight years, earning recognition one year as Best New Restaurant. After a stint cooking in Arkansas, Haney returned to Missouri where he developed the successful operation at Horny Toad with Vanderfort. He also helped open Ophelia’s, a contemporary restaurant on the Square in Independence.
Today, he brings his culinary skills, training, and management experience to Rumor’s, a full-scale makeover from a previous restaurant tenant.
True to his culinary training, Haney makes 85% of the food on his menu from scratch. Soups, stocks for sauces, and other menu items are prepared fresh. He cuts meat by hand five days a week. “I learned the right way to cook,” he says definitively. “I adhere to it.”
His management style takes a long-term approach. “I spend two to three years developing a crew. Then we can go to the next level,” he says. “When they’ve got that down, then it really becomes fun.”
The dishes sent to tables each night are a testament to his skill and methods. He teaches respect for proven technique and executing well without excuse. He says, “I’m a firm believer in ‘if you can’t do it right, then don’t put the food out.’”
With that in mind, his kitchen produces food that appeals to the restaurant’s varied customer base. Rumor’s draws diners from Lee’s Summit, Lakewood, Blue Springs, Independence, weekend traffic from the lake, and even Overland Park and Leawood. While the restaurant is a short drive by highway from these residential areas, but Haney understands that Rumor’s is still a destination restaurant. He focuses on preparing food and delivering an experience for customers that makes the journey worthwhile and convinces them to return.
Haney prepares weekend specials that attract regular and new customers looking for something different. He cites a recent dish of sesame seed-crusted ahi tuna pan seared and served with gulf shrimp, a raspberry chipotle sauce, and wasabi cream. Such contemporary dishes keep things lively for the kitchen staff and servers that entice diner’s palates with uncommon fare.
Experience in both the hotel and restaurant sides of the hospitality industry is certainly an asset. Haney knows how to please customers that want good value, a range of interesting menu options, and solid service. These attributes never go out of style.
With this new venture, Haney is eager to build a diverse, loyal clientele that know Rumor’s Steakhouse is the place to go in eastern Jackson County.