Foodservice > Chef's Table
When Chefs Debbie Gold and Michael Smith opened their own restaurant in the Kansas City area, 40 Sardines, they already had a wealth of experience in fine restaurants in the Midwest and France. They first met in the kitchen of Chicago’s famed Charlie Trotter’s, then spent time as co-chefs at L’Albion in the south of France. After returning to Chicago, they continued to build their skills and experience before undertaking another joint project, revamping the menu and image of Kansas City’s venerable The American Restaurant.
After that, it was time for the dynamic culinary duo to open their own restaurant, 40 Sardines (the name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the number of sardines Smith ate during a meal on the French Riviera). The menu draws on the couple’s French training and midwestern sensibilities, enlivened by an openness to culinary influences from around the world. In their recipe for Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Butter and Pickled Plum Soy Glaze, they combine some of the best of East and West, giving the classic compound butter a new twist with wasabi and miso, then pairing it with seared tuna and a tart-sweet Kikkoman Soy Sauce glaze. Gold and Smith rely on the consistent quality and wide variety of Kikkoman products to help spark their creativity.
Both Gold and Smith find that running their own restaurant poses challenges different from those of an employee. Says Smith, “Wearing several hats makes you very aware of time management and staff communications . . . When you put the right people in the right positions on the bus, then we can drive it to our goal.” Gold cites “keeping the staff in tune with the vision of the restaurant and keeping them motivated” as a big concern.
In today’s competitive environment, outreach is a constant challenge, and Gold and Smith are always looking for ways to stay ahead of the marketing curve. They rely on email marketing to keep the 10,000 names in their data base informed about special events, and they cultivate customer loyalty by doing special things for repeat customers and striving to create a generous sense of hospitality in the dining room. And, of course, by serving consistently delicious and creative cuisine, with a little help from Kikkoman.