You are here

In the Kitchen with Chefs Colby and Megan Garrelts

Produced by Stephen Exel

Photo: Bonjwing Lee

I couldn’t live without this kitchen appliance/accessory:
: Mauviel pots and pans and Le Creuset Dutch Oven  
Megan: Measuring cups and spoons and my KitchenAid standmixer

The best recipe of all time is…
: Osso Buco was an ah-ha moment for me cooking. In high school I cooked at a local bar and grill and had no real interest in pursuing cooking as a career. I took a girlfriend out to dinner and  decided to order something different—Osso Buco. It blew me away, the deep flavors, the orzo, the tangy gremolata that cut through the rich meat. I had to learn how to make and it has become one of my favorite dishes of all time. 
Megan: Chocolate Chip Cookies, because It is a simple, timeless, go-to everyday recipe and my kids can always help. Plus, who doesn’t want a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie?

Are you more of a follow-the-recipe kind of cook or do you throw caution to the wind?
: I like to throw caution to the wind
Megan: As a baker and pastry chef, I follow recipes. However, I do modify and make changes if ingredients are not around. For example, I will substitute different sugars out if I don’t have a certain kind at home.

Would you rather cook or do the cleanup?  
We both prefer to cook! We’re chefs!

My go-to dish for entertaining is…
: Barbeque, for sure. I will also cook using our home smoker, cooking various meats and side dishes that use fresh summer veggies.
Megan: If it’s a celebration, then a chocolate layer cake is my go-to. If it is more of a casual get together everyone, including the kiddos, loves Root Beer Floats with homemade ice cream.

Our dream kitchen would definitely include…
We just completed building our dream kitchen. There’s plenty of work space with a huge Boos butcher block and marble countertops, a large ranges with dual ovens—one for cooking and one for baking—plus ample cabinet space for dishware and equipment.

My earliest kitchen memory is…
: When my mom got her first microwave oven in the late ‘70s. It came with a recipe book. We made hot dogs in it!
Megan: Baking pie with my mom in the summer, with cherries from the cherry tree in our front yard.

Our biggest kitchen disaster was…
We cooked a luncheon for eighty Junior League ladies. At the time, we were new to catering; this was a large group; and we had little help. The on-site kitchen had a single oven, electric-burner range and the chicken we sent out was under-done to raw for some due to lack of good equipment. We then had to give a speech to these guests about being chefs. It was a big disaster!

My greatest kitchen/culinary success was…

Colby:  Winning the 2013 James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest. It’s a huge honor and a great recognition of hard work and Kansas City’s strong food culture. 
Megan:  Being named twice as a James Beard Foundation Semifinalist for Best Pastry Chef for my work at Rye, in addition to Bluestem being included as a three-time nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Restaurant. We opened Bluestem as our first restaurant when I was 23; to watch it grow over the past 14 years has been incredible.

My favorite/most-used cookbook is…
: Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook  and Michel Bras Essential Cuisine
Megan: Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern and Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook 

White kitchen or colorful kitchen?
We’re in the middle on this. It’s totally a personal preference. When we redesigned our home kitchen, we went with white and grey cabinets, white marble countertops and walnut Boos Block counter tops for a neutral space. For color we added an American Range in cherry red and open shelves to feature our collection of many-hued Le Creuset pieces. Kelly Porter, a local artist, created a custom painting to brighten up our hearth and kitchen—the most used space in our home!

The best dinner parties always include…
Great friends and nice wine!

Big kitchen island or breakfast nook table?
We have a big kitchen island that expands into the eating space.

My best kitchen advice is…
: Use recipes as a guideline and learn to cook for yourself. Don’t be afraid to modify a recipe to your own preferences.
Megan: Pre-read recipes. Often you can make things in advance or the recipe may take much longer than you have time. Some ingredients can be modified, which a recipe header will explain. It’s important to be prepared. 

My biggest talent when it comes to cooking is…
: I think Colby is great at layering flavors and braising meats. Some of our favorite meals, for the kids and myself, are the Dutch oven dishes that Colby layers with meats, veggies, herbs, and spices for a yummy meal. 
Colby: I think Megan is great at picking the perfect recipe and modifying it until its perfection. Her pie dough recipe is a great example.

Kitchen pet peeve:
When people don’t taste their own food or they are “too busy” to sit with their guests at home and enjoy. This happens at work too. As chef-owners we make time to always slow down, taste the food, and often dine in our own restaurants to taste, see, and have the same experience our guests do.

Everyone who comes into our kitchen comments on…
Whether we are at work or at home, everyone comments on how good everything smells!

The one thing in my kitchen I’ll never get rid of is
Colby: Great, sharp knives.
Megan:  Sprinkles! You never know when you’ll need them!

The one thing in our kitchen we should get rid of is…
Since we just remodeled our home kitchen we got rid of anything we did not need, including extra cooking gadgets we have gotten as gifts or collected through the years that don’t work or take up space, and old rusty baking pans. With the remodel we’ve upgraded to new Williams Sonoma Gold Touch baking pans for Megan and Mauviel and All Clad cookware for Colby.

Every kitchen needs…
A good hood and exhaust. We didn’t have one before we remodeled. A great hood will suck that all that smoke and grease and keep a neater environment. 

Megan and Colby Garrelts are the chef-owners of Bluestem in Kansas City, Missouri, a 2015, 2016, and 2017 James Beard Semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurant. Chef Colby is a 2013 James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Midwest award winner. Chef Megan is a James Beard Semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef.