Chef Jennifer Maloney

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | April 9th, 2012 | Chef Interviews

Leaving the deserts of Tucson, we have headed northeast to Kansas City, Missouri.  This stop is unique in that the restaurant is located inside a museum.  Café Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art serves lunch  Tuesday through Saturday, dinner on Friday and Saturday, and brunch on Sunday.

At the helm of this restaurant is Executive Chef Jennifer Maloney.  Under her leadership, Café Sebastienne has been recognized as one of America’s top restaurants by Zagat.  Through her energy and inspiration, this restaurant offers a brand new dinner menu every week.  Currently, she has unveiled the new spring menu for lunch.  I was able to speak with her about Café Sebastienne.

TT:  How many of these dishes are new to your menu?

CM:  I change my menu five times a year, working with the seasons.  I have slowly taken stuff off that is heavier.  There are four new items on the menu, but we will be moving into more.  We are starting to get things from local farmers like rhubarb and kale.

TT:  How big is your lunch menu?

CM:  We only have about twelve things on the menu for lunch, including a seasonal pizza and fish every day.  With spring, it gets lighter, it is constantly evolving.  It keeps us from getting bored, and we get to work with local farmers.

TT:  Are there items that never change on your lunch menu?

CM:  We have regulars that come every week.  There are some things that we have to leave on the lunch menu: fish tacos, the reuben, spinach or asparagus salad. Other than that, it changes.

TT:  You redo your dinner menu weekly?

CM:  We tried to keep the same menu for a couple weeks, but then we would get calls from the farmer or fish guy saying that an item looks good.  We like being able to change.  We write the menu on Tuesday, slowly start working on it.  Changing the menu this often keeps everybody fresh.  I like to work with seasons and the farmers.

TT:  Which is your current favorite on the spring menu?

CM:  The ruby trout, which is easy to prepare and delicious.  Pretty soon we will have roasted beet and sheep’s milk cheese tart.  I also love our pappardelle, which has bacon and peas.

TT:  As you noted, some of your ingredients are locally sourced.

CM:  Yes, I have three different farmers that call me right now.  When summer comes I will be working with about five.  Each grows different things.  We get greens, radishes, and chard now. Soon there will be berries, heirloom tomatoes, and watermelons. Being in the Midwest, the growing season isn’t that huge, but from March to November we’re lucky, as we have nice fresh ingredients locally.

TT: What makes your spring menu unique?

CM:  Our spring menu is unique in that I have a good variety of farmers that grow really beautiful things.  Some of them grow different things, and I think I am creative and able to utilize them well.  The food is simplistic, yet I put creativity into my menus, and I have really good products to use.

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