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These 7 Kansas City area restaurants and bars are James Beard Award semifinalists

Chewology chef Katie Liu-Sung focused on handcrafted gyoza as her entrance to the Kansas City food scene because it was part of one of her fondest childhood memories, according to the Taiwanese street food restaurant's website.
Chewology Gyoza Bar
Chewology gives diners the option to eat family-style. "One of my favorite thing to do was to sit around this round table with friends and family," says chef Katie Liu-Sung on the restaurant's website.

Old standbys and up-and-comers alike were represented on the latest list of what the restaurant industry calls the Oscars of the food world.

A bar, a restaurant, and a chef from Kansas City were all named semifinalists for the 2024 national James Beard Awards, announced Wednesday morning. Three more Kansas City chefs made the regional Best Chef category, along with one in tiny Overbrook, Kansas, about 30 minutes south of Topeka.

The James Beard Foundation will announce the next round of nominees in early April and the winners in June.

The awards recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, and media, "as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive," according to the foundation's website.

Here are the local establishments and chefs who made the list this year, nationally and regionally.

Kansas City area semifinalists

National Award semifinalists were selected from a pool of nationwide candidates.

Emerging Chef: Jeff Workman, The Campground

The Campground offers an intimate setting inside a former mechanic's garage.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Campground offers an intimate setting inside a former mechanic's garage

Before Workman joined the Campground team about a year ago, he spent four years as executive sous chef at Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, a Crossroads classic.

Among The Campground's dinner offerings are steelhead trout with black eyed peas, kale, and sweet potatoes, and a lamb chop with potato, shallot butter and kale.

Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program: Affäre

Sommelier Katrin Heuser chooses wines from all over the world that pair best with the farm-to-table dishes crafted by her husband, chef Martin Heuser. All the wines on her list are selected from sustainably farmed vineyards.

The Heusers ensure the restaurant maintains the high standards of fine dining, but also creates a welcoming environment that makes dining at Affäre feel like dining with family, according to their website.

Outstanding Bar: Drastic Measures

 Drastic Measures in Shawnee, Kansas, is a finalist for Outstanding Bar in the 2023 James Beard Awards.
Drastic Measures
Drastic Measures in Shawnee, Kansas, was a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar in the 2023 James Beard Awards.

This unassuming-from-the-outside, downtown Shawnee drinkery serves only cocktails — no wine or beer — each of which cost $14. Inside, the bar is outfitted with soft lighting, cozy lounge areas and a bar top made of rulers.

The seasonal menu right now includes a few tequila, mezcal, and epazote drinks, along with the Antigone, a chai infused Jamaican run with crème de cassis and lime. Drastic Measures was nominated in the same category in 2023.

Best Chef: Midwest

Katie Liu-Sung, Chewology

Exterior photo shows a store front painted green with a large, plate-glass window. The window has the words "Tai Wan Street Food" painted in white letters. A smaller painted sign at left on another window reads "Chewology."
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Chewology in Westport is home to James Beard Award semifinalist nominee for Best Chef, Midwest, Katie Liu-Sung.

Chef Katie Liu-Sung chose to focus on handcrafted gyoza, a special dumpling from her childhood, according to Chewology's website.

“I remember growing up, one of my favorite thing to do was to sit around this round table with friends and family, and my mom would start rolling out dough, making dumpling skins, and we would all just sit there start folding dumpling, cracking jokes, having a really great time," Liu-Sung said on the website. "I believe everyone has that certain food that will (just) bring you right back to that wonderful childhood memory, and for me, that food is dumpling.”

Johnny Leach, The Town Company

This is the James Beard's second nod to Leach and the rustic-but-refined Town Company, tucked into the Kansas City Hotel downtown. Executive Chef Leach and his wife, Executive Pastry Chef Helen Jo Leach, create seasonal menus together featuring elevated versions of popular Midwestern dishes.

On the current menu are dishes like a chile-smoked country pork chop, squash dumplings, and pear sorbet with limoncello shaved ice.

Romain Monnoyeur, Westport Cafe

Diners sit in a sunlit cafe with black and white checkered floors and red velvet curtains
Westport Cafe & Bar
"Creative new dishes are always on the menu, and everything’s plated with confidence and style," food writer Liz Cook told KCUR in August about Westport Cafe & Bar, pictured above.

Located in the heart of its eponymous entertainment district, Westport Café and Bar is a quaint, Parisian-inspired bistro that offers fantastic fare and craft specialty cocktails.

The latest menu offers Gallic fare like a Burgundy escargots tarte, French Riviera grilled oysters and steak frites.

Rozz Petrozz, Saltwell Farm Kitchen

Overbrook, Kansas, is about 30 minutes south of Topeka, just east of Highway 75. It's where you'll find Saltwell Farm Kitchen, "nestled in a grove of walnut trees and native Kansas prairie land, just around the bend from Clinton Lake Beach Park," according to their website.

They offer a 3- to 4-hour tasting menu that features local ingredients and five seasonally-inspired courses.

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.
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