The Food Issue

Meet Steve Cole, the father of KC’s farm-to-table movement

If there is a father of the local farm-to-table movement, the title belongs to

Steve Cole


From 1984 to 2002, Cole owned and operated the high-style American restaurant

Cafe Allegro

on 39th Street. As one of the first to preach the “local, seasonal and organic” gospel, he forged a network of local farmers and artisan producers to supply fresh, unique and exotic ingredients when most restaurants were still waiting for prepacked foods delivered from a wholesale supplier.

Cole built a relationship with Thane Palmberg of Thane Palmberg Farm in De Soto in Johnson County, supplying him with seeds to grow such hard-to-find ingredients as baby squash and Japanese eggplants. Mark Friend made the restaurant’s signature caraway rolls before going on to create

Farm to Market Bread Co.

Cole put Danny O’Neill’s


coffee blends on the map. And one of his proteges, chef Ted Habiger, went on to open

Room 39


“We made everything in house. Only the shrimp was frozen,” says Cole, who assumed the position of chief operating officer for the

Missouri Restaurant Association

in November.