About KC Chefs
Learn about ACF Greater KC Chefs history from one of the very first Presidents of our organization below.
IN THE BEGINNING by Klaus Sack
Back in the 1970’s, Kansas City had a small group of German Chefs who helped shape what we have come to know as the Greater Kansas City Chef’s Association. These Chefs transformed the culinary landscape of Kansas City and were the guiding forces behind the formation of the Chef’s Association.
By the 1960’s, several Kansas City establishments sought out European Chefs to meet the demand for first class European cuisine. Kansas City was trying to outgrow its reputation as a “cow town” and began broadening its menu choices. Hotels such as the Muehlebach, as well as private country clubs, wanted to please wealthy patrons whose tastes had transcended meat and potatoes. European Chefs, steeped in classical cuisine, and having been trained under strict standards, more than qualified for their positions. However, awareness of the culinary profession as we know it today was not very high. That was about to change.
Some time during 1972, I was working at the River Club, a private club also known as the “Millionaire’s club.” It occured to me that it had been awhile since I had seen Gerold Janzen, who worked very close by at the Hilton Inn. Although we were only three minutes walking distance apart, we had not seen each other since working together at the Muehlebach Hotel. Finally, we got together over a few beers. Speaking German together, as well as talking the chef’s language of our day-to-day experience, made that a very pleasant meeting. Of course, the Falstaff beer was nice, too. We promised to get together again soon and invited Dieter Weding from The Mission Hills Country Club. Dieter brought along Kurt Schlegel from The Carriage Club. The four of us met at Otto’s Bar at 47th and Troost, of all places.
Some weeks later, Dieter brought Bill Hoeshele, owner of a European Bakery and Pastry Shop, and he became the 5th German Chef to join our small group. I distinctly remember us sitting and drinking beers in a small private room. It was the beginning of a regular ongoing meeting. However, Dieter Weding complained that the food there was lousy and he promised that at the next meeting he would prepare some good German food for us. True to his promise, he brought German food to the next meeting. We were very appreciative for this nostalgic taste of home, especially since someone else did the cooking.
Since we all worked late, our meetings usually start at 9:30pm. Personally, I thought our gatherings would eventually result in the formation of a German Chef de Cuisine Club, because there were 5 other German and 2 Swiss Chefs in the area. Things rapidly changed course, and it evolved into something larger and beyond all expectation.
HOW ACF GREATER KC CHEFS CHAPTER BEGAN
Kurt Schelegel had previously worked in New York City, where he was a member of the Big Apple Chefs de Cuisine Association and, therefore, already a member of the American Culinary Federation. With all the information and details Kurt provided there was no question that we were now ready to form a local chapter in Kansas City. So, we formalized our small association and sought affiliation with the Americna Culinary Federation. The rest is history! And Kurt deserves a lot of credit for navigating us through the affiliation process. A few of the founding members were Gerold Janzen, Klaus Sack, Jess Barbosa, David Kamel, Karl Senn, Wulf Koerper and Kurt Schlegel.
The newly formed Greater Kansas City Chef’s Association was first mentioned in the Kansas City Satar on 8/5/1973. A large photo of Kurt Schlegel was taken at The River Club. We explained to the reporter how in many European nations the Chefs and Culinary schools collaborate to train apprentices and that we, the Chefs, could introduce such programs together with a Community College. Four years later, Hans Enderlin, then the Executive Chef of the Muehlbach Hotel, met with Jerry Vincent at Johnson County Community College to make plans for an Apprenticeship Program. The Apprentice Program began in 1976 and has been going strong ever since. Pat Sweeney has served as the Apprenticeship Chairman since 1985 and is credited for developing a nationally recognized program.
After a Charter from the American Culinary Federation was granted in 1973, the Greater Kansas City Chef’s Association grew very fast. Word of our association spread like wildfire in the local restaurant community. Our monthly meetings drew many interested people who applied for membership in our organization.
Eventually, we arranged to have a dinner to meet all members and their families, as well as the food purveyors. The lucky chef who was in charge of preparing food for our event was Augustin Riedi. I considered Augustin Riedi to be one of the best chefs in Kansas City. As with many chefs, he was a man of many talents. His outstanding carpentry skills were put to use in remodeling the interior of his new restaurant. Augustine provided an excellent and memorable dinner party that evening. According to Wulf Koerper, Augustine left Kansas City about 15 years ago, and returned to his native Switzerland.
The next get-together for our Chef’s party was at the top of the Commerce Bank on Main Street, called “The Four Seasons Restaurant”. This luxury rooftop restaurant had a commanding view of the city. Our party was in the German room, which was beautifully decorated and had a large seating capacity. I estimated there were about 150 people. Chef Bernard, an Austrian, and his staff received a great round of applause for the delicious German food and wine. Bernard graciously thanked his crew for working on a Sunday. Great chefs always recognize and acknowledge the staff, down to the humblest kitchen position, for the dedication and hard work it takes to put on a good show.
Such a chef, and person, was a privilege to know. I met with Bernard, his wife and their 2 children several times. It was very sad that such a wonderful chef and family man lost his life in an automobile accident some years later.
The next party was a great surprise, because Jerry Wunsch, Executive Chef of the Kansas City Club, invited only Chefs and their wives to a cocktail party. Typically, the Christmas season is a very busy time for chefs, so it was scheduled after the New Year, when all the holiday parties were over. The expansive buffet table was loaded with Blue Point Oysters, Smoked Nova Scotia Salmon, Maryland Crabmeat Cocktail, Half Main Lobster, a variety of cold cuts, and Roast Prime Ribs of Beef, as well as an assortment of cheeses such as Camembert, Brie and Imported Roquefort. Dessert included French pastries, pies, layer cakes, and an attractive ice sculpture with the label K.C.C.A.. A nice selection of wine and spirits also accompanied the fabulous food. Jerry Wunsch did his very best, and the Chefs, aware of the work it took to produce such an outstanding party, were delighted and grateful for the gift of that evening. For Chefs, being on the receiving end of that kind of production is a rare treat. According to Karl Senn, Jerry eventually retired after many years of service and traveled with his wife to many countries.
REFLECTING ON THE PAST
Of the original 5 Chefs, 2 of them passed away. Bill Hoeshele and Dieter Weding left us, but not without leaving their mark. Gerold Janzen continues to make the rounds with his own spice businesss. Kurt Schlegel is in Tennessee, still trying to lose his German accent. I have also hung up my chef’s apron, and spend my retirement traveling with my wife Carmen.
Looking back on those early years, one of the things that impacted me strongly was having attended an American Culinary Federation Convention in Cleveland. Kurt Schlegel, Wulf Koerper and I were the first chefs from Kansas City to attend. We were inspired by the keynote speaker at the convention, who talked about how our image as a Chef was evolving from a kitchen service person to a professional, titled position. That speech was a turning point for us. Coming from Germany, we had always understood a Chef to be a professional and revered position. A chef transformed cooking and elevated it into an art form. However, we felt that the profession had a ways to go in Kansas City. At that convention in Cleveland, we saw how the title of “Chef” was better understood and appreciated in other parts of the United States. That planted a seed for us, upon returning to Kansas City, to make our Chef’s Association a place for professional growth and development, and a way to promote culinary standards at every level of service.
Now, all these years later, I see that we were pioneers of a sort. Our chapter grew, and through the talent and contributions of others who shared a common vision, our Greater Kansas City Chef’s Association has become the outstanding organization it is today.
ACF GREATER KC CHEFS TODAY
The American Culinary Federation Greater Kansas City Chefs’ Association now boasts a combined membership of over 400 professional chefs, apprentices, and purveyor members, and is one of the largest ACF chapters in the country.
The Greater Kansas City Chefs’ Association not only offers its members a chance to meet and network but is also involved in many community service efforts such as offering support to the Franklin Children’s Center and by supporting the ACF’s Chef and Child Foundation. The Greater Kansas City Chefs’ Association has also received many awards and has been named the American Culinary Federation’s Chapter of the Year in the past.
If you are interested in joining us, we would love for you to become a member at the Kansas City Chef’s Association. Become a Member of the Kansas City Chefs Association Today! If you are a member or thinking about becoming a member of the ACF Greater Kansas City Chef Association, then join our email list. Emails are sent out about meetings, Association news, and more!