Chef Nate Feldmiller is a former child food critic



Chef Nate Feldmiller is right at home in Cafe Europas kitchen.
  • Chef Nate Feldmiller is right at home in Cafe Europa's kitchen.
Just when Nate Feldmiller thinks he has left a kitchen, something pulls him right back inside. Over a 15-year cooking career, he's been between jobs for a total of somewhere around nine days. And the executive chef at Cafe Europa has been at the helm of three restaurants in Kansas City and has found a comfortable routine at his Crestwood eatery.

Feldmiller admits that he was a critic before he was a chef. But his mother, Kathy, ensured that career didn't last every long.

"I was probably about 8 when my mom made me pancakes one morning. I told her that I kind of felt like bacon and eggs this morning. She told me that I could get up and make my own breakfast then. So, I did," Feldmiller says.

Those early breakfasts turned to lunches when he spent a summer with his aunt, Pat Owens, and uncle, Eric Cassell, in Pennsylvania. His uncle, an avid cook, took him on shopping trips to New York City, where the food shops across the metro would provide ingredients for an entire weekend of cooking.

When Feldmiller returned home, Cassell sent him a collection of cookbooks, including Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking. Feldmiller was 15 and starting to think about cooking as a career. He started at the University of Arizona before transferring to the University of Missouri. There, he made salads at the University Club and delivered food for an Italian restaurant.

"I just wanted to make some money and be in a kitchen," Feldmiller says.

He graduated in 1996 with a degree in history and English. After his wife was accepted to a graduate program at Columbia University, Feldmiller jumped at the chance to return to New York City where he thought he might go to culinary school. Three weeks at the Cub Room in Soho turned into two and a half years. The line was where he studied, moving from prep to the grill to pastry.

"I decided to take some time off and bum around New York. Three days later, I got a job," Feldmiller says.

The place was Bouley Bakery in Tribeca, and a four-star review in The New York Times meant that chef David Bouley's restaurant was doing 120 covers for lunch. Feldmiller spent a year at Bouley before deciding that it was the time to bum around New York. Three days later, he was hired on at Saul (at the time, the only restaurant in the borough of Brooklyn with a Michelin star).

After eight months at Saul, Feldmiller and his wife decided to move back to his hometown. It was the summer of 2000, and he brought a piece of New York with him to Kansas City. The Spot was a neighborhood deli at Ninth and Central that made its own bread and was a favorite of the employees from the adjacent DST Systems, Inc.

"It was great to have the rapport with people, to see them every day and check in," Feldmiller says.

When the lease at the Spot was up, Feldmiller and his partners took their act to 39th Street. Circe was a contemporary American restaurant with a serious wine list. For three years, Feldmiller plated up risotto and scallops. And then, Cafe Europa became available.

"It was a chance to go in a different direction. We wanted to do creative things, but also make sure we kept the things around that people expected," Feldmiller says.

He took over Cafe Europa in 2007, and it officially reopened after a round of renovations in September 2008.

"I like to think that I look at everything we've done before, take bits and pieces and figure out how we can keep getting better," Feldmiller says.

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