Dining

Chef John Smith Flies Back to the Nest

Chef John Smith Returns to 801 Restaurant Group to head Pig & Finch

Local chef favorite John Smith is now running the kitchen at Leawood’s popular Pig & Finch. If the lines out the door are any indication, he is doing something right. Rooted by the Southern influence of his parents to create food items that evoke memories of childhood and home, Smith’s simple and clean style makes roasted chicken melt in your mouth.

Smith has been in Kansas City since 2008 when he opened the 801 Chophouse in the Power & Light District. He left the restaurant to help open The Jacobson in the Crossroads, but now has now returned to the 801 Restaurant Group to lead culinary efforts for Pig & Finch.

Chef John Smith returns to the Pig & Finch Gastropub. Photos by Landon Vonderschmidt.

The gastropub opened in Leawood’s Park Place just a few months ago and also shares a sister location in Omaha. Smith is adding some seasonal produce to the winter menu including squash and root vegetables in many of its salads and side dishes. The new Bacon Marmalade Toast with Bleu Cheese Crumbles is a must try.

Smith says good food never goes out of style. Growing up in the projects on the South Side of Chicago, he learned how to cook all kinds of meat from his mother. Additional training and chef positions in New York (including the renowned Craft Restaurant) left him well poised to introduce different styles to his cooking.

Chef John Smith’s Bacon Marmalade Toast with Maytag bleu cheese crumbles and fresh parsley

If you want some good soul food, check out the Sunday night special. For $15, you get Pig & Finch’s Fried Chicken Special with a perfectly crunchy crust that’s only achieved through patience and preparation. Smith’s Southern roots shine through on this dish, and it is made even better with a sophisticated green bean casserole infused with bacon and béchamel sauce, mashed potatoes and a corn biscuit with honey butter.

Chef John Smith’s Winter Green Salad -  kale, roasted butternut squash, brandied cranberries, toasted spiced walnuts, creamy cider vinaigrette

Weeknight dining is also encouraged, especially on “Woo Her Wednesdays” where Pig & Finch features a different three-course special each week for $29. The atmosphere here is laid back and casual, just like Smith. From the dining room to the booth-lined bar, it’s a comfortable place, and the menu, overseen by Smith, is inventive and inviting.

Pig & Fitch celebrates its first anniversary at the end of December. Now, with Chef John Smith at the helm, this neighborhood jewel is sure to shine brighter in the months to come.

Story by Lisa Chism