Monday, April 6, 2015

Spotlight: Chef Matthew Arnold

There are many reasons to visit Webster House, as more and more Kansas Citians are discovering.  There’s its historical background as a grade school, impeccably restored and improved.  There’s its fabulous bar and happy hour.  There are its too inviting internal “shops” where I can always find something I “need.”  There’s its great proximity to the Kauffman Center (no accident, that) and the fact you can eat there, park there (free) and walk a few steps to a performance.  There’s its lovely patio and Sunday brunch menu. 


And then there’s Chef Matthew Arnold.  And, he would very quickly add, his talented and loyal staff.  This executive chef, “discovered” after a nationwide search, turned out to be a Lee’s Summit native – as these things go, he didn’t even know he was being interviewed for a job in Kansas City.  So by mid-2011, he packed his bags in North Carolina (The Dunes Restaurant) and took on the position.  Challenges included a soon to be skyrocketing volume (serve 200+ people the regular menu in the same 1.5 hours before a performance?  A burgeoning outside catering capability,(500 people, your place)?  Immediate and increasing demand, which he helped create of course, for on-premises dining and groups (party on-premises for 350?)  Nothing is a problem to this guy.  Challenge, maybe.  Fun, definitely.


Probably all chefs love food, but Matt’s enthusiasm is truly contagious.  Unlike some, he cooks at home, when he’s home, all the time, often spending his time perfecting or tweaking a dish he loves.  Pancakes, for instance, were a recent in-depth Sundays study. His favorite and continuous reading addiction is, you guessed it, cookbooks.  He loves to try all kinds of cuisine and still likes the food he grew up on – his granma’s fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, and the meat and potatoes of the Midwest – all of which he now does, with a twist.

Matt’s favorite thing about cheffing?  Well, there’s food of course.  But he also says it’s the people he’s come in contact with over his nearly 30 years in the business (yes, he started very young), friends and memories from all over the country.  He also mentions how hard working and persistent everyone he works with is and the passion for food and service they all share.


Matt wanted to be sure I remembered Webster House is not JUST a before-the-theatre event and it’s definitely not a “ladies who lunch” only place.  “Please don’t  pigeonhole us,”  he reminded.  As our conversation continued so easily, at one point we talked about the celebrity chef stuff where the persona sometimes seems stronger than the food. Matt’s philosophy is one that many could, should replicate:  “Stay myself, be simple, come on strong, focus on food.”    

Webster House
1644 Wyandotte
Kansas City, MO 64108
Ph. 816-221-4713            

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