The Gallery - Kansas City

A day in the life of a Kansas City chef

From feeding to delivering to meat cutting, we’ve been taking a look at a Day in the Life of folks all along the beef chain. Today we follow a Kansas City chef through his average weekend routine. Enjoy!

There will come a day when Zac Alft looks back upon this time of his life in astonishment. The nightly sprint through marathon dinner service after marathon dinner service will have slowed, and he won’t quite comprehend what happened to the last 30 years of his life. For now, the 27-year-old chef dynamo doesn’t have time to look that far into the future. His six kitchen concepts in Kansas City’s Live Block of the ultra hip Power & Light District, along with another handful of dining hotspots in Louisville and Baltimore, ensure every day will be an adventure.

The Calm Before the Storm
The date had been circled on his calendar for some time: April 13. Bon Jovi. A sell-out crowd at the nearby Sprint Center is nothing Alft and his crews haven’t seen before. But Jon Bon Jovi, and the assumed age demographic he would bring to the district, would surely be a boon for business, particularly at Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge — a swanky, fine dining anchor that hangs its hat on some of the most incredible cuisine you’ll find in KC.

Maker's Mark in Kansas City

Alft and his trusted right hand man at Maker’s, Chef Derek Kieffaber, were more than ready.

“There are things that, if you wait until you need them to prep, forget it,” Alft says. “All these guys know that. This kitchen can handle anything that comes, as long as we’ve done all the prep work ahead of time.”

Adding to the busy night, Alft has been charged with overseeing a 400-person, $250-a-plate seated dinner just up the street at one of his newest spaces, The Gallery, as part of a fundraising gala. In just eight hours time, he will be entertaining some of Kansas City’s elite socialites — but Alft begins the day behind a blistering pizza oven with a large group of 10-year-olds. It’s his son’s end-of-the-season wrestling team get-together. Outside, the KC Live Block plays host to a few tourist groups. Across the way, Chef Derek and his staff are busy shucking oysters and making sauces by the gallon in anticipation of evening customers.

The Gallery - Kansas City

After a quick stop in the kitchen of Maker’s Mark, Alft headed to the Gallery. There, his kitchen team is busy making final preparations ahead of dinner, including 360 pepper-crusted Certified Angus Beef ® filet mignon steaks.

Going Gardening

Just after 3:30 p.m., Alft’s phone buzzes. At McFadden’s, one of his other restaurants, the sunny, 72-degree weather brought patrons in early. The kitchen was staffed to handle a typical casual Saturday afternoon. After running at a feverish pace for nearly an hour, Alft arrives and steps onto the line to expedite orders.

“My management style is that I need to be able to do everybody’s job that I supervise better than they can,” he said. “I should be able to step in on the line at any kitchen and make things right.”

Zac Alft - Kansas City

On this day, Alft’s expertise could only paper over the cracks. And when he realized his staff had no dishes left on which to serve food, Alft briefly suspended food service until his team could recover.

“A lot of times I’m able to step in and relieve some of the pressure. There was no catching up today,” he said.

What of the supper rush? Can the crew keep up? And how are preparations coming for that private benefit? Find out tomorrow as we follow Alft through the pre- and post-concert mania. To catch up on the entire series check out these posts:

  • A Day in the Life of a Kansas Rancher, part 1 and part 2
  • A Day in the Life of a New York foodservice distributor, part 1 and part 2
  • A Day in the Life of an Ohio meat cutter, part 1 and part 2


    Published by

    Bryan Schaaf

    Bryan is a modern-day Hamburglar, minus the mask and kitschy catch phrase. There’s not a burger on the planet he wouldn’t take on — even those token ones for customers with less-adventurous palates. In his spare time, he’s a soccer junkie, musician, husband and father of the most adorable little carnivores this side of Jurassic Park.