Meet KC’s new culinary kids on the block—the husband/wife team of Helen Jo and Johnny Leach, both transplants from Portland, Oregon. The couple was handpicked to run the culinary program at the new Hotel Kansas City. As the executive chef, Johnny will oversee the newly opened, rustic The Town Company restaurant and its sister bar concept, El Gold (set to open next year). Helen Jo, meanwhile, is a master baker and chocolatier. As executive pastry chef, she’ll keep your sweet tooth in check creating unique desserts for the hotel, as well as pastries for the upscale coffee bar in the lobby. (Johnny says he’s a fan of her macarons.)
We caught up with both of the culinary pros to find out five things you don’t know about them.
5) A fan of the fan
Helen Jo was a traditional Korean fan dancer for ten years. “I liked learning more about Korean culture and being able to dance with my friends.”
Helen Jo was a kindergarten Spanish teacher before her pastry career. “The kindergarten class I taught was so excited—very inquisitive students. It was very cool to see how much they learned and retained at a young age.”
3) Get that man a taco.
Johnny is always in the mood for tacos. “Tacos are the best food item on planet earth—period. Zero debate. The experience of eating a fresh tortilla is something everybody needs to experience.” [Fun fact: According to Helen, Johnny makes the best carnitas she’s ever eaten.]
2) Grab your skateboards!
Johnny loves skateboarding. “I started as a young kid and first taught Helen Jo back when we lived in NYC.”
1) In their ‘fridge?
Johnny always stocks cold, aggressive soda water and Helen Jo enjoys snacking on unsweetened dried mangos. [One thing you won’t find? Dolmas.]