Award-winning chef Debbie Gold joins new restaurant company

James Beard award-winning chef Debbie Gold is back at the corner of 119th and Roe with another new restaurant concept — this one in Leawood.

Gold was a founder of the famed 40 Sardines restaurant on the Overland Park corner of the intersection before rejoining The American Restaurant in Crown Center. But she has been wooed back south, becoming the third partner in a new restaurant group called Red Door Restaurants.

The Leawood-based company plans to open its first restaurant, Red Door Grill, in mid-May in Camelot Court, 11851 Roe Ave.

Partner Gary Zancanelli was head of Zancanelli Management Corp., which owned and operated several quick service and fast-casual restaurants including KFC and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. He still has several of the restaurants in different markets but sold the company.

Zancanelli wanted to take his extensive experience operating restaurants and open new concepts from the ground up — with the right team. Jason Gleaton, who was operating partner of Zancanelli Management Corp., is operations partner of Red Door Restaurants.

Red Door Restaurants plans multiple locations in the metro, each distinctive to their neighborhoods with menus targeted to the surrounding communities.

“The idea is not to just stamp them out. We don’t want to have a ‘chainy’ feel. Each will have its own identity,” Gleaton said. “The driving force will be the high level of quality — in a fun and unique way.”

Some duties will overlap between the partners but generally Zancanelli will be more involved in strategic planning, including scouting new restaurant locations. Gleaton, who came up with the Red Door Grill concept, will focus on branding and more day-to-day operations including hiring. Gold will lead the culinary side, creating menus for the new concepts and overseeing the kitchen staff.

Gold has received many accolades and recently competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef.” She also has helped develop concepts for other area restaurant companies.

“When you get a chance to work with someone at Debbie’s level you jump on it,” Gleaton said. “Restaurants are a people business. Having the best people will give you the best chance to grow this company and make it something special.”

Gold considered several offers in recent years, including opening her own restaurant. But the single mother of two children decided a partnership would be less time-consuming and allow her to focus on her passion, the culinary side.

The menu is still being worked out with the partners releasing only one hint: They will make good use of the kitchen’s new wood-fired grill.

And the menu and decor will be completely different than the restaurant that came before it — Paddy O’Quigley’s.

“Paddy has a great reputation and there’s a lot of tradition there,” Gleaton said. “People asked me what we kept from Paddy’s. Nothing. We tore it down to the studs to start our own history on this corner.”

The red paint was still wet on the restaurant’s front door Monday morning. Figuratively, the partners said they will start working seriously on their next concept once the “paint is dry” at Red Door Grill.

“It’s exciting. This is the next step for me in my career,” Gold said.

Good Restaurant Week

The 2013 Kansas City Restaurant Week had a record-breaking season, including raising more than $150,000 for local charities.

More than 126 restaurants also participated — the highest number in the event’s four year history.

“We are proud just to see the tremendous growth and the participation by the community,” said Zach Doerfler, president of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association. “People get an opportunity to try new locations with pricing that accommodates most people’s budget. You can get in some of the highest priced restaurants and have a wonderful meal for $30. And then they have a charity kickback as well.”

The 10-day event ran Jan. 18 to 27. Several restaurant companies made significant donations, besting previous years. Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc., which operates J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood and Bristol Seafood Grill, donated more than $21,000.

Darden Restaurant Group, with both The Capital Grille and Seasons 52 on the Plaza, donated nearly $15,000.

“Every night we had over a 1,000 guests and Friday and Saturday nights we had 1,200 to 1,300,” said Vanderlei Melchior, general manager of Fogo de Chao Churrascaria, also on the Plaza, which donated $20,000. “Something we are pretty big on is helping out Harvesters and the community.”

The event saw an eight percent increase in participating restaurants compared to the 2012 event. Participating restaurants also saw an increase in overall revenues (a combined 67 percent increase during the 10-day event), and there were nearly 11,500 downloads of the restaurant week app, a 100 percent increase from 2012.

The proceeds benefit Harvesters — The Community Food Network, Kansas City Regional Destination Development Foundation, and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Education Foundation. They were officially presented Monday during hospitality day at Kauffman Stadium.

The event raised $142,000 in 2012. Next year’s restaurant week is set for Jan. 17 to 26.

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