Food & Drink

Kansas City’s Chef to Watch 2013: Ryan Brazeal of Novel

A long journey from JCCC’s culinary program through NYC kitchens, Ryan Brazeal now knows what he wants.

It would have been fun to follow Chef Ryan Brazeal through his culinary awakening—the journey that brought him to the doorstep of his unique West Side restaurant, Novel, which happens to be one of the most-talked about new eateries in town.

As a kid, Brazeal and his sister were each given the task of preparing the family dinner one night a week. With his mom’s copy of “The Joy of Cooking” propped open, young Brazeal whipped up dishes such as fried chicken and pasta—sometimes he received a thumbs-up, sometimes not.

“I was in fourth or fifth grade,” says Brazeal, “and didn’t know the first thing about fundamentals.”

As he grew older, Brazeal continued his cuisine exploration, cooking multicultural dishes and experimenting for friends. The burgeoning chef knew he wanted to channel his creativity into cooking for a living.

“It was the late 1990s and the fusion trend didn’t appeal to me,” says Brazeal. “I dreamed early on about opening a bare bones steakhouse.”

 Brazeal started with baby steps and worked into long strides following his 2003 graduation from the culinary program at Johnson County Community College. He cooked in several high-profile New York City kitchens, including David Chang’s award-winning Momofuku, eventually venturing back to KC’s on-fire food scene to open his own concept.

“I wanted to the ability to control the menu, do what I want, work with the local suppliers and producers in the area,” says Brazeal, who chose the urban patina of 17th and Summit to open Novel.

“It was extremely important to me to open downtown and show people what an enchanting place it is and to help bring revenue and pay taxes to support its continued development.”

Another element that ignites Brazeal’s prolific imagination is KC’s collaborative chef community.

“There’s amazing camaraderie and a sense of responsibility to help out nonprofits like Boys Grow,” says Brazeal. “We all want to make Kansas City the best it can possibly be.”

Brazeal has not only made his mark with vibrant dishes such as a moist Duroc pork chop and a heavenly Crispy Egg, but his efforts to redefine the muddled catchall phrase of “New American cuisine” by highlighting a product’s natural attributes are turning heads.

Don’t think for a minute, though, that Brazeal considers himself a pioneer paving a road less traveled by other chefs.

“We do Novel American cuisine and strive to retroactively redefine a style of cooking that has been mislabeled for years,” he says.

And in the tiny, two-story 19th-century home where Brazeal and his cooks spin culinary magic, we can’t wait to experience the next chapter in what’s sure to be a chart-topper for years to come.

Click the arrow below to see who we picked as Kansas City’s favorite food provider of 2013.

Story by Kimberly Winter Stern  |  Photos by Paul Andrews