Next spring, the American Restaurant turns 40. This is the first of a special two-part report on the restaurant, from its storied past to its exciting present and future.
The American Restaurant is getting ready to celebrate a very special anniversary when it turns 40 in 2014.
To me, there’s no argument that The American is the most important restaurant in Kansas City. Without The American, other stunners like Bluestem, Justus Drugstore, Story, Michael Smith, and The Rieger might not even exist, or if they did, they might be in an entirely different form.
The American, opened by the Hall family in 1974 as a showcase for the best that Kansas City had to offer, raised the culinary bar in our fair city to new heights. To this day, The American remains Kansas City’s only Forbes four-star and AAA Four Diamond award recipient.
The American was well into its tenure when I arrived in Kansas City in 1989. It was already a teenager, having gone through its precocious-child years, and was on its way to maturing into a beautiful young woman.
Rex Hale was the executive chef when I first dined there, a chef known for his culinary creative genius and voracious volatility. Hale was just the latest in a series of top-notch talent at The American, recognized as one of the nation’s premier dining venues from the beginning, and he was one of many more culinary greats to come.
In fact, 10 years later, chef Debbie Gold, another of the amazing lineup of chefs at The American, would win the prestigious “Best Chef Midwest” award issued annually by the James Beard Foundation.
Gold is one of three James Beard Award winners The American has produced. Notable American Restaurant alums include: Bradley Ogden, Christopher Elbow, Celina Tio, Alex Pope, Doug Frost, Colby Garrelts, Michael Smith, and, of course, Debbie Gold.
Recently, Gold stepped down to pursue other opportunities, so The American was once again left to search for another great chef to fill the shoes of so many who have manned the kitchen before. And, the winner is? Michael Corvino, a Walla Walla, Wash., native who most recently was plying his trade at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas.
I recently had the chance to visit with Corvino, gaining some insight into his personality and culinary vision, as well as experience his cuisine. It was a night to remember, and an experience I’ll share with you when we pick this up next time. One thing’s for sure, The American’s present appears to be rock solid and its future incredibly bright.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.