It wasn’t too long ago that Broadmoor culinary graduate and Bluestem alum Joe West was thinking about giving up cooking forever. West, 30, had been in the game since he was 16, and, despite having some good experience under his belt, things weren’t going as planned.
A deal to open his own restaurant, Kusshi, had just fallen through, and West was beginning to consider other avenues. And then Bread and Butter Concepts offered him a chef position at Stock Hill, its new steakhouse opening in December just off the Country Club Plaza.
“It all turned out to be even better for me,” West says, noting that this isn’t where he expected to be at all in 2016. “Looking back now, I’m really excited and really happy that I’m in this situation, because this is a far better situation — for me at least.”
Stock Hill is slated to open Dec. 1, and Ink is hosting a First Bite event on Nov. 30 to preview the the steakhouse’s menu and space in the former Board of Trade building at 4800 Main St.. In the meantime, though, we sat down with West to get his take on all things food-related.
Q: If you had to describe your culinary style in five words or less, what would you say?
A: Whimsical, seasonal, fresh, fun, balanced.
Q: What’s the best thing you’ve eaten in the past week?
A: I was at the Rieger last night. His (chef Howard Hanna’s) rabbit liver that he has on the menu right now is absolutely killer. It’s super tender. It’s not gamey at all.
Q: What does Kansas City need more of in terms of restaurants?
A: With the loss of the American Restaurant, I feel like there needs to be more fine dining-focused, like a really focused fine dining restaurant.
Q: What’s your favorite splurge, food-wise?
A: Anytime I have a chance to get a tasting menu at any fine dining restaurant, I’ll usually pick that over anything else.
Q: What is your favorite cheap lunch?
Q: Do you have a favorite fast food meal?
A: I like the egg rolls at QuikTrip.
Q: Do you have a guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
A: I have a lot of guilty pleasures with food, and that surprises people because I’m always cooking all these fancy dishes and things. There’s nothing wrong with frozen pizzas.
Q: Do you have a favorite condiment?
A: I actually like the Polynesian sauce at Chick-Fil-A.
Q: What’s your go-to ingredient?
A: Acid’s really important in cooking. It balances your food. I tend to go to champagne vinegar.
Q: What’s your go-to drink after a long day?
A: I’d say an old fashioned.
Q: What’s your dream trip?
A: A trip to Japan. I’m from Japan, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been. I’d love to go and explore the food and the culture.
Q: Aside from Kansas City, what’s your favorite food city in the United States?
A: I really loved Las Vegas, because there was a lot of variety of everything. Outside of the Strip, there’s a ton of ethnic cuisine, a lot of Asian cuisine. You can get really good food at the low end or the high end. Pretty much anything you can think of, it’s there somewhere. And everything’s open mostly 24 hours too, so you can experience something whenever you want to.
Q: Which celebrity would you like to cook for?
A: Drake. He loves food, I know that.
Q: What would you make?
A: I would do a tasting menu. I know he likes pasta, I would probably do some of that. I would probably do duck and foie gras, and definitely be as creative as I could. And then I would hope he would rap about me.
Q: Who’s your biggest mentor or inspiration?
A: All the chefs have been really big mentors for me and big inspirations for me, but I would say Colby Garrelts (from Bluestem) had the biggest impact as far as who I am as a chef.
Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve in the kitchen?
A: Cleanliness is a big deal for me. I feel like when cooks are dirty or messy, it’s really annoying. I would say also not following through. That’s a big pet peeve.
Q: Do you have a go-to kitchen gadget?
A: Honestly I think spoons are really important. I collect antique spoons. You can do a lot with them. You can plate things. You can mix with them. You can flip things in a sauté pan. Can’t do it without a spoon, a good one.
Q: Do you have a favorite cookbook?
A: It’s funny, because I don’t really read cookbooks for recipes anymore, but I will read cookbooks when I get bored or have some time. Every time I go back to the French Laundry Cookbook, I always find something new that I didn’t notice before. So it’s really interesting. I’ve had it since I was a kid.
Q: What’s something that you love to make?
A: I love to make pasta when I’m at home. It’s very relaxing, and plus I just love eating pasta.
Q: What’s something you hate to make?
A: I dislike making desserts, but I love eating desserts. I’m not a measurement kind of guy. I like to do things by feel and taste. But I’m capable of making desserts.
Q: What’s a culinary trend you wish would catch on in KC?
A: More late night ethnic food.
Q: Is there a culinary trend that you think needs to end?
A: Honestly, when I was younger, I felt like it was easier for me to dislike a certain trend, but I feel like everyone is entitled to embrace whatever trend is happening. And I feel like no matter what the food is, if you don’t do it right, then it’s not worth it. But if you do it right and you execute it properly, then it can be a great thing, if it’s a trend or not.
Preview Stock Hill
Ink’s First Bite lets you help KC charities while trying new restaurants before they open. Join us for an exclusive party at Stock Hill, 4800 Main St., from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30. Tickets are $25 at eventbrite.com; proceeds benefit Ella’s Hope, Missouri’s autism awareness and support charity. More information at facebook.com/inkkc.