Four Inane Questions with Executive Chef Bobby Stearns of The American Reserve


Photo by Jessi Stecklein

Carnivores, listen up! From braising to broiling to barbecuing, chef Bobby Stearns has a penchant for serving up the perfect slab o’ meat. In fact, he’s been firing up grills around the metro area since he was a student at Shawnee Mission West High School. 

Stearns truly found his calling after enrolling in the culinary arts program at Broadmoor Technical Center. “Shout out to chef Bob at Broadmoor Bistro. He was my first chef instructor. They have a dope program there and do an amazing job teaching our next generation of chefs,” says Stearns. “He taught me ratios and a lot of baking techniques I still use to this day. I wasn’t always a model student, but I did learn a lot there and the program was a positive outlet for me.”

The hometown boy then went on to earn his culinary degree at Johnson County Community College. Now, if Stearns looks familiar, it’s because he’s helmed several established restaurants in the metro, including Ophelia’s on the Square and Grand Street on the Plaza. 

Never one to rest on his culinary laurels, he’s now the newly minted executive chef at The American Reserve, the fancy-schmancy restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel. (Like Arby’s, Chef Bobby’s got the meats!)

We caught up with the culinary pro in-between cooking for dignitaries, a few well-known sports figures, and even a couple of celebs who were staying at the hotel. But Stearns doesn’t drop names because, you know, he’s a pro. Plus, he didn’t even flinch when we asked for A-1 with our meal. 

The Pitch: You can only use one condiment the rest of your life. What is it?

Mustard for the win—and it was actually created in St Louis. There are so many different kinds of mustard. I use them in many different applications.

Dijon is a great binder or rub for pork. I like to lather it heavily and sit it in the walk-in overnight. It really breaks the meat down and helps tenderize it. Whole grain mustard is great for dressings, certain salads, and even bagels. Yes, bagels! That might be on my new menu at the ambassador. Stay tuned! 

Then, there’s straight-up yellow mustard. It’s actually just mainly three ingredients: whole grain mustard seeds, white wine vinegar, and tumeric. Plochman’s yellow mustard, preferably. It’s a Chicago thing!

What’s a popular flavor pairing that’s super popular that you absolutely despise?

This is a hard one because I’m all for combining and pairing different flavors. Especially the crazy ones you wouldn’t think would work well together. Like chocolate and avocados. Peanut butter and sriracha. Pomegranate and red meat. (And you know I like me some French fries in my Wendy’s Frosty.)

But if I had to say one that I despise? It’s raspberry and chocolate or dark chocolate and raspberry coulis. Tastes like 1998 to me. It could be done right, but it’s usually not. 

You won the lottery. What band is playing your “I just won the lottery” party? And why?  

This is easy! One of my good friends is an artist on Strange Music, Joey Cool! And some of his label mates, including the GOAT, KC king Tech N9ne! 

But Joey and I both came up from the same place and worked our asses off to get to where we are today! So, if I win, we’re both winning! 

What’s the most amazing dessert you can make from scratch without using a recipe?

Any type of pie, big or small! Flourless chocolate cake, pot de crème, or creme brûlée, too. Those are just from making them so many times. I can whip those with a blindfold and one hand behind my back! 

If I had to choose just one, it would probably be gooey butter cake. Another Show Me State-thing. Been making it since I was lil’ kid in the kitchen with my grandma. You might recall the peanut butter version I used to make at Ophelia’s? People would devour that! 

Categories: Food & Drink