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The Dish With Ann – Café Sebastienne

Rick Mullins, executive chef at Café Sebastienne at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, got into cooking by default “I was working in bars throughout my ‘20s, living close to the edge. I really didn’t start professionally until I was 31. By then, I was sober and more mature mentally. It was easier for me to be creative, so I moved up quite rapidly.”  

A native of Hutchinson, Kansas, Rick grew up and went through school in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. “I have very little formal education when it comes to cooking. I went to culinary school briefly and dropped out.” 

Rick started his culinary career with Bread and Butter Concepts, working first at Urban Table and then off and on for six years at Gram & Dun, where he was chef de cuisine before he came on board at Café Sebastienne. “I did everything during those years, from being a prep cook to a line cook to washing dishes.” He also worked at bluestem and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 

In addition, Rick’s longtime friend and collaborator, Mickey Priolo, along with Freshwater’s Calvin Davis, started a monthly pop-up dinner series called Soil Collective, where they were able to exercise their philosophies about food, using blemished produce and reducing waste. Mickey is now the general manager at Café Sebastienne.“We all were very passionate about using locally sourced food. Our ethical standpoint is sustainability. And we worked with a lot of nearby farmers.” The three chefs also donated food to shelters and food pantries, including Harvesters, and volunteered at Forks & Corks. “Working in the community is very important.” 

Before Rick took the helm of Café Sebastienne, it was deeply identified with the culinary talent of Jennifer Maloney, who was the executive chef for two decades. She was not only known for her exquisite food but for her generous spirit and big hugs. In 2016, Jennifer passed away suddenly on Christmas morning at the age of 55. “I only met Jennifer once so I didn’t feel the need to fill her shoes. I came in with my own ideas.”

Rick sees his kitchen as a creative incubator, where people can break out of their shells and express themselves. “It’s a group effort. I work with my friends. I am inspired by my friends.”

Because he loves to do research and travel with his wife, Micala, his tastes are constantly changing and evolving. Right now, Rick is passionate about the cuisines of Mexico and South America. “I’m not talking about tacos per se. It’s more about the indigenous flavors such as mole, ingredients found in ancient and current cultures.” 

We couldn’t wait to try some of Rick’s cooking, and we were not disappointed. The butternut squash soup was perfect for a frigid winter’s day—thick, creamy, and delicious. Both of us could have eaten another bowl. The seasonal greens had just the right amount of salt, with the pumpkin seeds providing a satisfying crunch. For entrees, we ordered the chitarra pasta with a poached egg on top and the rainbow trout. The pasta was obviously homemade and fresh, and the egg on top made it all the more delectable. Both the sweet potato and elderberry purees for the trout had that perfect balance of sweet and savory, while the trout was moist and fresh, and the skin was deliciously crisp. Even though my lunch guest said she didn’t like chocolate, we went ahead and got the flourless chocolate budino with almond whipped cream, amarena cherries, and pecans. I laughed as she kept scooping up bite after bite of this sinfully good dessert. So much for sharing.

Café Sebastienne’s emphasis on modern, global cuisine aligns with Rick’s broad-minded values. “I believe in being open and receptive. Food ties cultures together, serving as a bridge.” 

 

Rick Mullins’ Butternut Squash Soup Recipe
1. Roast two butternut squashes at 350 degrees until soft.
2. Remove seeds and scoop the insides.
3. Put squash in a sauce pot.
4. Add enough cream to cover.
5. Heat to a simmer, then cut off heat, and put in a blender.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Café Sebastienne
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
4420 Warwick Boulevard
Kansas City, Missouri 64111
816-561-7740
kemperart.org

Also featured in the March 16, 2019 issue of The Independent
Photo Credit: Kenny Johnson

 

Ann Slegman

Ann Slegman has thoroughly enjoyed her various positions at The Independent since she started in 2006. She has been the managing editor and editor and is now a contributing writer for the magazine. She and her husband, Tom, are parents of two adult children, Kate and David, who live in New York City. Ann enjoys reading, traveling, playing tennis, bridge and Mahjong, watching Netflix shows, and walking her two Havanese dogs, Max and Morris. She has written a novel, Return to Sender, and a collection of poems, Conversation, and is slowly (very slowly!) working on a young adult novel.

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