Chef Maloney FEAST magazine interview

Chef Maloney FEAST magazine interview

Café Sebastienne

December 26, 2014 9:00 am  •  Written by Pete Dulin

This month, executive chef Jennifer Maloney is rolling out her winter menu and gearing up for Kansas City Restaurant Week – which runs from Jan. 16 to 25 – at Café Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. This past November, Maloney prepared a magnificent spread for fellow chefs at Feast’s Tastemakers roundtable conversation, which was held at the museum.

What dishes did you serve at the Tastemakers roundtable? I served local sorghum-brined heritage pork loin with a pear, golden raisin, whole grain mustard and ginger compote. I grilled [the pork] so it was still a bit pink but nice and crispy on the outside. We also had shaved Crum’s [Heirlooms’] Brussels sprout salad with kale, onions, cranberries and almonds with a light sherry vinaigrette and poblano-roasted turnips, potatoes and butternut squash featuring Crum’s vegetables. Roasted spaghetti squash came with spicy greens, blistered cherry tomatoes and chile flakes. We had spiced Toll House cookies to finish.

Why did you choose these dishes to serve to your peers? I wanted to highlight our local foods and also how I can layer different flavors and cooking styles. I like to build different flavor profiles from sweet, salty, spicy and acidic. The menu reflected my style of cooking.

How long have you been the executive chef at Café Sebastienne? Nineteen years! I know people might think I’m crazy, but I’m proud of what I have created along with my awesome staff, who continue to inspire me. We all work toward a beautiful, tasteful experience every time we have a service.

What inspires your menu each season after nearly two decades? My farmers and cooks keep me inspired. We have a collaborative kitchen, and we all take part in how we decide what goes on the menu. Our sous chef, Janet Ross, has been with me for 10 years and is responsible for our outstanding brunch. Our guests also inspire me. We have favorite dishes they expect to see seasonally. I might come up with the menu, but I ask for everyone’s input to achieve the final result. We cook with as much as we can locally.

What cooking techniques are featured on your winter menu? My favorite cooking techniques are braising, frying and roasting meats, vegetables and greens. Braised pork shank with root beer and ginger, braised mustard greens and local stone-ground Cheddar grits. Delicious.

What menu changes do you have planned this season? On my winter menu I will have braised meat dishes and heavier pastas. I like to do a lot of variations of fish and beans. Sounds funny but tastes great – root vegetable tagine with maybe a grilled piece of Gulf grouper, or grilled swordfish with local grits and Burgers’ [Smokehouse] bacon. What is your favorite comfort food for winter? My favorite food to eat during the holidays is caramel and Cheddar popcorn. I love it, and I buy a big can from Topsy’s Popcorn every year. Seriously. I also love braised meats and puréed rutabagas.