James Beard Award-winning chef Debbie Gold, long associated with fine dining in Kansas City, recently signed on as culinary partner with Red Door Restaurants. She’ll be developing menus for the company’s growth vehicle, the casual Red Door Woodfire Kitchen & Bar concept that debuted earlier this year in Leawood, KS, with more in the works. Gold brought home Beard honors while helming the kitchen at the acclaimed The American Restaurant, then flirted with a more casual bistro style at 40 Sardines before returning to The American. But now, with Red Door Woodfire Kitchen & Bar, she’s shifting into full neighborhood joint mode, cooking burgers and steaks over a wood-fired grill. We asked her about the transition.
I’ve been doing this for a long time—I’ve worked in fine dining, owned my own business and done other consulting projects. The appeal is to be able to do different styles of food and hopefully learn how to build this into a bigger business.
RH: Did you need to recondition your brain to work on this kind of concept?
Gold: It is different, but it’s really about doing good food and it really doesn’t matter what type of food it is. For me it’s all about execution and expectations. I’ll probably see many of the same guests I’ve seen before, but they will have different expectations. And they will visit more frequently. Red Door Grill [now Red Door Woodfire Kitchen & Bar] is designed to appeal to more people and be a place you can just stop by and grab a bite.
RH: Obviously you are looking at much lower checks and higher volume than The American Restaurant. How do you approach creating food for a higher volume operation?
Gold: I want to make sure the flavors are simple and good, but the biggest difference is in how the food is put together. In fine dining, it’s more about exact knife cuts, and it can take a lot longer to put a plate together. Here, it’s more about how to execute meals a lot faster. Also, the menu at The American had fewer items so we could spend more time on each plate presentation. This one is a bigger menu.
RH: Any clear winners early on?
Gold: The favorite burger is the Spicy Bleu, with roasted serrano mayo, bleucheese and fried onion rings. Among the flatbreads, the most popular has pureed artichoke hearts and fontina cheese, and when it comes out of the oven we hit it with some chimichurri.