By Jenny Vergara

Kansas City boasts a culinary scene with many familiar chefs and award-winning restaurants that employ the next generation of Kansas City’s culinary talent. They are the hard-working men and women who are trying to get their food, talent and passion recognized, perhaps even funded, so that they too can open up their own restaurant one day. Some of them already have, and are just starting to show KC what secret sauce they have to add to our ever-changing culinary scene.

Here are seven chefs who are investing their time and talent today, to keep Kansas City a top notch food town tomorrow.

Nick Goellner, Owner/Executive Chef, The Antler Room


After getting his degree from the French Culinary Institute in New York City, Nick Goellner worked his way around the kitchens of the Big Apple before returning home to KC, where he rose through the ranks at The Rieger. He moved to San Francisco for a few years to work before returning to town by way of Copenhagen, Denmark, where he staged for Chef René Redzepi’s at Noma. Now, Goellner is running his own restaurant with his wife/partner, Leslie, called The Antler Room, which became one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings of 2016. 

Cherven Desauguste, Owner/Executive Chef, Mesob Restaurant


Hailing from Haiti, Cherven Desauguste briefly studied the culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Miami. He then moved to Kansas City, where he cooked for the Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa and Lakewood Oaks Golf Club in Lee’s Summit, before opening his first restaurant, which quickly gave rise to his second. In his new restaurant, Mesob, he uses French-inspired culinary techniques to prepare both Caribbean and Ethiopian cuisine with an equally expert hand. With classical training and a passion for his own food, he elevates the ethnic landscape in KC with his passion and desire to blend the two.

Carlos Falcon, Owner/Executive Chef, Jarocho

Although Carlos Falcon has been cooking in restaurants for more than 20 years in Kansas City, it wasn’t until he opened his own restaurant, Jarocho, that he really came into his own. He quickly developed a stellar reputation for his ability to bring the best fish and shellfish from all over the world into his KCK restaurant. Falcon’s unique seafood dishes delight, transforming traditional dishes from his hometown in Veracruz, Mexico, with his classic French techniques. With a second location opening in Johnson County, look for him to open a Crossroads location soon that will put him front and center in the culinary scene. 

Jonathan Ponzer, Chef at Columbus Park Ramen Shop


Local chef Jonathan Ponzer graduated with a culinary degree from Johnson County Community College in 2011. He went on to work at The American before making the move to The River Club to become their sous chef. Following his good friend and fellow chef, Josh Eans, Ponzer came on board to help at Happy Gillis. It wasn’t long before the two chefs were talking about opening a ramen shop, a passion for both. When Columbus Park Ramen Shop opened, Ponzer was in the kitchen, dishing up bowls of delicious KC-style ramen. A recent explosion of ramen shops in Kansas City has made Ponzer a go-to expert in the field.

Katee McLean, Owner/Executive Chef, Krokstrom Klubb & Market


Earlier this year, Katee McLean opened Krokstrom Klubb & Market, Kansas City’s first Scandinavian restaurant, with her partner and boyfriend, Josh Rogers. A culinary graduate of area Johnson County Community College, McLean has enjoyed a successful career, working at the Classic Cup on the Plaza before finding her groove with PB&J Restaurants, and eventually becoming the chef at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. Now, she is introducing Kansas City to her family’s native Scandinavian dishes with her own spin. Eat here and learn a whole new culinary language, including aquavit, smørrebrød and fika.

John Brogan, Executive Chef, Rye


A seafood market just outside of Chicago is where John Brogan’s culinary career began at the age of 15. After high school, he attended Johnson and Wales in Charleston, SC, and spent eight years in the city, working his way up to the sous chef at the Hominy Grill. He moved to Kansas City on a whim, and worked for several restaurants, including the acclaimed 40 Sardines. Brogan then went to Bluestem, and when Megan and Colby Garrelts were ready to open Rye, their second, more casual restaurant, Brogan was tapped to head up the kitchen. He was recently promoted to executive chef at Rye, where he runs the kitchen day to day in addition to the menu development.