Chef’s Delight in Kansas City

A Kansas City chef and artist take inspiration from their eclectic and abundant backyard garden.

| July/August 2015

You know you are in the presence of professional foodies who are serious about growing robust fruits and vegetables that will be plucked, picked or dug up daily for dinner when you hear what Peter Crump gave his partner, Cody Hogan, for Christmas: A beehive.

Despite being hard to wrap, the hive of zealous pollinators was the ideal gift for Cody. In the years since, it has taken the couple’s backyard garden to new heights. The plum trees exploded with fruit for homemade jams, chutneys, candies, liqueurs and infused vinegars. The apple trees produced enough abundance to make apple-ginger jam and fiery pepper and apple jelly. For Cody and Peter, growing and eating fabulously fresh food isn’t just a personal pleasure. It’s a profession and a philosophy they pass on to others—one steaming plate of melt-in-your-mouth butternut squash ravioli, garlic braised mustard greens or Swiss chard risotto at a time.

On a busy Friday night in Kansas City, Missouri’s, hip downtown Crossroads Arts District, you’ll find Cody and Peter creating and serving masterpieces like these to the eclectic crowd of art aficionados and business professionals who flock to Lidia’s Kansas City, a popular Italian restaurant where Cody is the chef de cuisine and Peter is a server. The inventive cuisine that guests enjoy at this celebrated restaurant is often inspired by the produce grown in Peter and Cody’s own backyard garden, a densely planted Eden that serves as their culinary muse, botanical laboratory and personal retreat. Every inch of this reimagined suburban lawn is dedicated to the celebration of food and life.

The Path That Led to the Kitchen

Cody didn’t always dream of arming himself with a 10-inch chef’s knife and making people’s dinner dreams come true. A pianist since age 8, Cody was busy earning his master’s degree in piano performance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory when he took a break to study abroad in Germany. His host family was crazy about cuisine and delighted in introducing their hungry American ward to the best food in the region where the borders of Germany, France and Switzerland meet.

Cody came back with a newfound passion for food. To break into the restaurant business, he volunteered for guest chefs who came to Kansas City for events. They liked this eager kid, gave him their cards and told him to look them up if he was ever in town. With nothing to lose, one day Cody packed up his car and road-tripped to California. Eventually, he landed in the famed kitchen of Chez Panisse working for Alice Waters, the revered evangelist of the fresh, local, sustainable food movement. Waters’ trophy case of accolades, including the Global Environmental Citizen Award, is a tribute to her groundbreaking work as an advocate for the environment and the taste buds.

“I learned so much about what good ingredients taste and look like,” Cody says. “At restaurants, the easy way out is to buy everything from commercial purveyors. A lot of the products are designed to store well, not necessarily taste great.”

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