Wednesday, December 7

matt l.

Matt L. | Manager, Sommelier
Years of Industry Service: 17
Sometimes you learn from your past. Sometimes you don't. One of Matt's first jobs in the service industry was a concession supervisor at a movie theater. "I got to work with all my friends," he said. "It was like a party every day." But he got fired because he was dating a co-worker and like many youthful relationships, they broke up. They also went to school together. Awkward, right? He hasn't learned not to date co-workers, but he has learned that you can't let your relationships affect your work. Matt says he's somewhat shy; at work, relationships tend to form a lot easier, it's where he spends most of his time anyways. "It's more intimate, more intense. You're working together under high stress." He thinks relationships should be easy even though he knows they are not. "Ten years ago, I would say we wouldn't be friends (after a break up). In this industry, at this level of service, you just can't bring that stuff to work."

Matt has come a long way from movie theater popcorn and soda though. These days, he's working with what he loves, wine. The bottle that opened his eyes to the wine world was J. Lohr Chardonnay. Since he got hooked, Matt says it's taken a while to gain the knowledge to share his passion, including years of tasting, talking about the subject with his peers and training and educating others. "I love everything about wine, all styles, the history, how it's made, it's awesome," he says. His favorite wine is one that smells so incredible that you don't want to drink it.

Matt says he tends to be an workaholic. He even passed up a free trip to California to work. A recent trip took him to Columbia, Missouri where he met his friend and co-worker's Timothy's parents. Aside from not traveling, he likes to unwind at dive bars, drinking cocktails, playing pool and Megatouch and visiting industry friends, like Van at bluestem for brunch. 

The service industry has changed for Matt. He says that people are more appreciative of servers now than they used to be. "We are providing a service and not slaves to them. We make people see that by giving the best service day in and day out."

  Make KC Better » Bring communities together

Tuesday, December 6


Kansas City, Missouri » Brookside
This little deli/restaurant/grocer/coffeeshop basically has it all.
We stopped into this neighborhood favorite for a late lunch.
Both Tina and I chose a sandwich and added something.
They have half-price wines on Tuesdays and Wednesdays!

Nopalitino, add turkey, $6.49
Fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, balsamic vinaigrette

Giorgio's, add tomato, $6.99
Prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, arugula

Thursday, December 1

Up Goes the Tree

Happy first day of December! These images are from Union Station, the trees were being put up and decorated and as most of you probably know, the light that streams in through the big windows is just gorgeous. In years past, they would set up the train village right up front, but they've moved all that to the back of the hall. It's a great place to bring your kids for a train ride and to see miniature train villages. Hope you all have a wonderful month!

Tuesday, November 29


Ginna | Manager
Years of Industry Service: 42
When she was 14-years-old, Ginna (pronounced Jenna) began her service industry career at H Salt Fish & Chips. Forty-two years later, she has worked in a variety of roles and positions and it has become a career she embraces. "I always say I wish I could get a job that gets me off my feet, especially at my age," Ginna said. "The restaurant business gets under your skin. I can't get away from it, but I do it for one reason. It's for the people."

For twelve of those years, Ginna has been at Pierpont's, where she was originally hired on as the day hostess, then hostess supervisor and now as a manager. When she first started, Ginna never thought she'd last this long. She says, "I didn't think this would be my last job, but I hope it is." Monday through Friday, every lunch shift, you could count on Ginna to answer the phone in the morning to find out if, after a heavy night of drinking, whether you could please, please, pretty please be cut from the floor. She has become friends with so many servers, bartenders, managers and kitchen staff alike, that there is not a person she doesn't know in the building.

Now that she's a manager, everyone still considers Ginna their friend and confidante. When she was promoted, Ginna was advised to distance herself from the staff, but she said, no way is that going to work. "If I can't be friends with them, I don't want the job." 

A server ends her shift by giving an envelope of money and credit card slips to Ginna, who checks her out for the day. She leaves quickly, but not before saying, "Love you, Ginna." That is a small, telling moment of the special relationships she develops with people. The friendships sustain her love for the job.

But family comes first for Ginna. She is the second oldest of four girls. Her mom, 78-years-old and her father, 84, are originally from Sicily. She has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren. They all live in Kansas City. "I have an awesome family. I don't know what I'd do without them. I have wonderful kids who have never given me any problems. My parents are alive and kicking, and they're old. I'm damn lucky they're still in my life." 

Ginna loves to travel. Like many people, she said if she she didn't work and had the money, she could live out of a suitcase. "But it has to be warm and be by the water," she says. "[The water] is serene and I love the sun. I love being tan." Her last vacation was a family cruise that included both her parents and all her sisters. "I had more fun with my mom and dad than I ever thought I could have."

Although she doesn't have much time for travel these days, especially around the holidays, she still dreams of her next vacation, a tour down the Amalfi Coast. She went to Italy for her 50th birthday, visiting Tuscany, Florence and Rome and it is a trip she will never forget. She would like to return to Italy with her boyfriend, who speaks the language fluently. Ginna and her sisters never learned to speak Italian. Although she didn't think anything of it when she was younger, she would give anything to know the language now. Her beau is encouraging her to learn, even if it's only a few phrases at a time.

When she's not working and dreaming of Roman holidays, Ginna's vice is gambling. She loves going to the casino and says she can spend more time there than at her job. Before she came to Pierpont's, Ginna worked at Station Casino. "I went to work there so I could quit gambling," she says. "But I just went to other casinos." She was hooked by blackjack, moved to craps and now loves the slot machines. You will most likely find her at Ameristar Casino because that's where she has built up most of her comps. "It's just fun." She also got hooked on Indy racing, embracing a sport that her boyfriend enjoys. In addition to the excitement of the vrooming-engines, Ginna says. "I think it was more the drinking that got me. It's a big party."

She smokes. She drinks. She gambles. And she tells you exactly how it is.

Monday, November 28


Kansas City, Missouri » Crown Center/Crossroads
Many restaurants have come and gone at Union Station, but only one has stayed true and fast through the years, Pierpont's. Opened after the renovation of the train station, like any restaurant, business has gone through its highs and lows. With the shuttering of the Hyatt and Crown Center hotel restaurants, they seem to be on their way back up. It has been years since I've stepped inside Pierpont's, but it was still wonderfully unchanged. The decor is just as beautiful and awe-inspring as the first time I was there. I spent my last year of college hostessing at Pierpont's and easily recalled all the questions customers asked. Like who the architect and designer was, Matthew Connelly and Paul Robinson. Or who made the hand-blown glass fish at the bottom of the lamps – Rock Cottage Glassworks in Merriam, Kansas. We saw plenty of marriage proposals and special occasions celebrated in the restaurant, but the actual asking of the hand in marriage usually happened under the clock in the middle of Union Station.

One of the main features of the restaurant is the 18-foot bar with liquor stacked to the ceilings. Once, years ago, the bartenders made a signature cocktail called the Library Ladder. The bartenders would climb to the top, make their cocktail in the shaker and slide down all the way down. It was quite the spectacle – cheers, applause and delight were a guaranteed reaction. They'll still make you the drink, but the show requires fool-hardy bartenders who will absolutely ruin their shoes for your moment of distraction. And those crazy bartenders, they've long left the building.

Library Ladder
1/2 oz. Licor 43  +  1/2 oz. Grand Marnier  +  1/2 oz. Bailey's Irish Cream
Shake and serve as a shot or over ice.

Tuesday, November 22


Hayden | Server+
Years of Industry Service: 1.5
Although this is Hayden's first go-round in the service industry, he's already figured out that every job is essentially yours, especially in a small restaurant. "This is a big family here," he says. "You do what you need to do to get stuff done: hosting, dishes, grimy stuff." At twenty, he's in the tenuous stage in life when you realize you're not a kid anymore, but neither are you old enough to say things like, "when I was a kid" without a bit of self-conscious reflection. He's still in college studying architecture. "I want to give myself that foundation. If I don't like it, I'll go into industrial design. I like making spaces and nooks." Hayden father is a private contractor and "has always been one to tackle 20 different things." As for his mom, Hayden says, "She is where I get all my artistic abilities." He has two older sisters and a younger brother. In his downtown, Hayden focuses on hobbies like pottery, spending time with his nieces and nephews, hanging out with his buddies and studying KC's downtown architecture.

  Make KC Better » Downtown stadium and more community garden and projects like Tulips on Troost

Thursday, November 17

Occupy Kansas City

We were up at Liberty Memorial and took a walk around the tent encampment of Occupy KC. It was quieter during the week than it has been on weekends. Someone told us it this was their sixth week in front of the Federal Reserve building. Waste was separated into compost, recycling and general trash on the side of the foot path. Blankets hung from tree limbs, trampled signs littered the grass and one woman was folding a cardboard box of laundry. The "End War" sign makes us ask whether this is still about protesting corporate greed. As Occupy Wall Street is being dismantled in New York, we wonder how much longer the remaining Occupies around the country will last. 


Emmanuel | Private Dining Captain
Years of Industry Service: 33
Emmanuel has been at Pierpont's for a third of his career, but way, way back in the day, his first job was at Putsch's Coffee House (you can read more about Pustch's 210 here and see the old coffee house menu here) on the corner of 47th Street and Broadway. It was 1978. "It was booming. It was was busy," he says. "There were lines around the corner. People were spending money. They would have a martini lunch and then have lunch." After working on the Plaza for so many years, he rarely finds himself down there, or even at the newer Power & Light district anymore. He doesn't feel like it's in his age bracket anymore. A grandfather (not that he even looks like one!) of thirteen and a father of three, he's focused on family and work. Six of those grandkids belong to his son Ricky. "Remember I told you to stay away from him?" Emmanuel asked. "Now you know why."

Since he's taken over PDR, business has gone up 150%. In addition to leading the private dining service at Pierpont's, E-Man has also had a catering business on  the side, a secondary job he's been doing for 20 years. The catering flourished from his years working at a country club; some of his clients he's known for at least a quarter of a century. "A lot of their grandkids are in college now and I knew them since they were three or four," he says. "I'm like Mr. Belvedere....or Benson."  

Emmanuel is really into sports, but always, work and making a living comes first. He spent many years partying and going to bars after shifts and finally realized how much money he was throwing away. "You know how this business is, no rest for the wicked."
On a side note: I used to work with E-Man at Pierpont's. He has HUGE hands.

  Make KC Better » Open my own restaurant, have my own food and show them how black people do it (....but it's cheaper working for The Man)

Tuesday, November 15

timothy o.

Timothy O. | Wine Director
Years of Industry Service: 20
Tall and lanky in a long, black coat, perfectly worn-in black jeans, with a cup of coffee in his hand, Timothy looked like the Neo of wine standing in the back alley of Avenues, as he took advantage of the quiet time between lunch and dinner, confident and at ease. When he started in the restaurant business 20 years ago, he was more of a scared-y cat than the Matrix. His very first job was serving ice cream; that led him to restaurants which led to seven years of bussing tables. He said, the first five years, he was too scared to even talk to people. As his restaurant knowledge grew, so did his confidence, and wine was his gateway. "When I started knowing more about wine, and knowing more than the guest, that was the confidence I needed," he said.

As a wine director for Avenues, Timothy has to analyze cost benefits for a profitable list. But if had carte blanche on creating any wine list he wanted, he said he would probably price it so low, he'd be out of business. He doesn't personally believe in a big wine mark up. It would be expensive to maintain that kind of list, but he said he'd love to do that.

In addition to managing wine lists for both Avenues restaurants, he also writes for Sommelier Journal (he has a feature in the the Nov. 30th issue) and is pondering the idea of book. For now, he is developing a blog, writing about restaurants, management and other stories. He says that the restaurant business will be the "trunk of the tree" but he'll be focusing on other things too. Tentatively called The Dirty Sommelier, Timothy says, "Right now, I'm just working on writing. You hit a point when you've seen enough to warrant enough material to put in a book."

Timothy was born in Holland and grew up in St. Louis. He likes art and going to museums. He's a regular at the Nelson-Atkins, but his favorite is the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. He moved to Kansas City seven years ago after leaving a restaurant that was "pulling a Titanic" and he also left a relationship. He spent one year at JJ's as a server and walked into Avenues during construction to land his sweet, wine gig in Brookside.

  Make KC Better » Put terms on Congress. 
 It would make KC and everyone else better