Chow Town

Renee Kelly named one of the coolest women in the country

Renee Kelly Kelly, of Renee Kelly’s Harvest farm-to-table restaurant and “Top Chef” TV show fame, says it’s an honor to be named to’s list.
Renee Kelly Kelly, of Renee Kelly’s Harvest farm-to-table restaurant and “Top Chef” TV show fame, says it’s an honor to be named to’s list. Bravo

Everybody, it seems, loves lists. Especially “best of” lists: movies, television shows, restaurants, vacation destinations — you name it and someone, somewhere has compiled a list ranking the top 10, 50 or 100. These categories and the thousands and thousands of sub-categories must be real “clickers” for websites because they are nonstop and often nonsensical.

I don’t generally spend a lot of time browsing the web, and my social media activities are generally limited to Facebook posts about delicious food that I have either eaten or want to eat and reposts relating to funny/sad animal stories.

The “best of” lists generally don’t get me to bite. Recently, though, two “best of” posts caught my eye — partly because of the subject matter (food), and partly because I personally knew many of the folks who made the lists. As it turns out, there was one person I didn’t know is a huge foodie.

The latest list I saw was The Coolest Woman in Every Single State. This list of hip and happening females was compiled by Don’t ask me what is. I don’t have a clue. Still, the fact that the coolest woman in Kansas and Missouri were both from the metro was, well, cool. I reached out to these cutting edge ladies, Renee Kelly and Jennifer Wadella.

Kelly, of Renee Kelly’s Harvest farm-to-table restaurant and “Top Chef” TV show fame, says it’s an honor.

“It’s nice to be recognized as a person. To be the coolest woman in Kansas professionally validates that we are doing something correct. It takes a living, breathing fabric woven amongst all of Kansas City and beyond to keep this way of life and business going,” Kelly said. I’ve known Kelly for a number of years. She has a larger-than-life personality and the passion to go with it, so I was not at all surprised she made the list.

Wadella, a software engineer who runs the nonprofit organization Kansas City Women in Technology, says she was taken aback as she’s never really thought of herself as cool.

“I think this honor, while flattering, is amusingly ironic. Growing up being into tech and computers and video games and often bullied for it, ‘cool’ was absolutely never a word used to describe me. It’s nice that society is shifting its views of what’s ‘acceptable’ for women, and I definitely feel humbled to be included with some of the other women on the list,” Wadella said.

Wadella says KCWiT runs a variety of programs and networking events to help women connect, mentor and learn. That’s awesome, and it’s also nice to know, from a personal standpoint, that Wadella is a serious foodie.

“I love to travel, but even in great cities like Seattle I have yet to find a food/cocktail scene that matches our own in inventiveness, quantity and patio integrity,” Wadella gushed.

Patio integrity? Yep, she’s a techie alright. One patio Wadella should definitely check out if she hasn’t already can be found at Prairie Village’s Story restaurant. Run with equal parts of excellence and passion by husband-and-wife team Susan and Carl Thorne-Thomsen, Story has been one of my favorite KC restaurants for years, so I was anything but shocked when MSN declared it the best restaurant in Kansas.

“We feel very fortunate to have a loyal following in Kansas City and devoted staff members,” Carl Thorne-Thomsen stated. He says accolades like this are great, but it’s the passion for the food that drives him every day. “Great ingredients are the source, the starting point, for everything we do. Doing justice to those ingredients is important. We want to make them more than what they are, never less,” Thorne-Thomsen said.

So, there you have it, the best and the coolest all right here in Kansas City. How fortunate are we, right? Surely there’s a list out there somewhere to validate that.

You can learn more about these amazing folks and their places of business by visiting,,

Dave Eckert is a partner with Flavor Trade, a Kansas City-based gourmet food incubator and co-packer. Before that, Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.