Written & Photography by Melanie McDowell
MORELS, FRIED TACOS, AND CHOCOLATE BON BONS
KELLY CONWELL OF STOCK HILL Do you have a favorite taco spot in town? I love Cancun Fiesta Fresh. They have the best fried tacos — that’s my guilty pleasure. I really like El Patron a lot. Their margaritas are good and they have great fried tacos, as well. My boyfriend, Jeff, and a friend of ours and I did a taco tour down Southwest Boulevard. We stopped at every single place, got a margarita and salsa, and ate all the tacos.
From growing up in a small town in north central Kansas to living and traveling abroad to settling down in Kansas City, Kelly Conwell similarly keeps moving through the ranks of what she calls “pastry land.” She worked at Bluestem, Jax, and is currently co-executive chef and executive pastry chef at Stock Hill.
say that I had a favorite meal, but I have a lot of good childhood memories of food. A lot of it has to do with my grandpa — especially this time of year with morels coming into season. We used to go out foraging together, come home, clean them, and fry them. It’s a really simple, easy recipe using saltine crackers. They’re awesome.
What sets Stock Hill apart from other restaurants? Here, we do have the classic steakhouse staples, but the rest of the menu changes seasonally. Co-Executive Chef Spencer Knipper and I get inspired by places we’ve traveled, food we’ve had as kids, cookbooks we’ve recently read, and inspiration from our staff. That’s what sets us apart. We get to put our own spin and our personalities into our menus here.
Is there a dish you don’t know how to make that you’d like to learn? I don’t know if there’s a dish, but there are different techniques I’d like to be proficient in. I’ve always wanted to take a class on chocolate. Working with chocolatiers and making bon bons would be interesting. On the savory side, getting more in tune with whole-animal butchery — going from an entire animal and breaking it all the way down.
Growing up, what was your favorite meal and who cooked it? I wouldn’t
What is your guilty pleasure food? Fried tacos and Mexican food.
What is an indispensable ingredient in your kitchen? On the sweet side, vanilla and salt are super important. For savory, garlic because you can manipulate it to have a lot of different flavors. Roasting it can be sweet, we have it raw in a couple different things, and we have this awesome Lebanese garlic sauce that’s really nice with our lamb dish. Have you found it challenging being a woman and an executive chef? It can be. Sheila Lucero, the corporate executive chef for all five Jax restaurants, is a mentor. One thing I learned from her is being personable and getting to know your staff. They’re not just line cooks. I know a lot of their wives, their kids’ names. Every once in a while we’ll grab a beer together. I treat them with respect, they treat me with respect. That’s a huge thing, especially for women in leadership positions. Looking back two years ago to where I am now, I’ve grown a lot. Not everybody’s the same, and I think it takes a good chef to know the staff and know how to deal with certain situations.