Rooster and the Hen and The Antler Room Get Back to Their Roots
When chef Nick Goellner is cooking, his bottom lip protrudes. It’s the only indication of his quiet, contained intensity during dinner service, which culminates, for him at least, in carving eight Aylesbury ducks in less than five minutes. He has to make it pretty, too: After he’s done, chef Michael Gallina carefully arranges each duck’s meat and skin back around its bones. Their wives, Leslie Goellner and Tara Gallina, wait patiently at the open-kitchen window at Blvd Tavern in Kansas City to whisk the platters of meticulously plated duck surrounded by just-foraged pine branches to 40 guests.
It’s the third course in a pop-up collaboration between the Goellners’ The Antler Room, coming soon to Kansas City, and the Gallinas’ St. Louis-based Rooster and the Hen, and things have been going remarkably smoothly considering the chefs have only been cooking together for less than a day. After all the ducks have “walked,” as Nick puts it, Michael takes over Blvd’s small kitchen for the fourth course. Nick and two borrowed Kansas City-area chefs, Tom Pulliam and Andrew Heimburger, listen closely as Michael explains how his “big, meaty beet” should be plated. The purple vegetables have been aging in beef fat for four days, so there’s little prep work left. The four chefs quickly work out a plating assembly line: Pulliam starts by spooning a dab of potato-yeast purée on the beige plates, Heimburger adds a spot of tender shredded beef cheeks, Nick carefully adds a juicy beet and Michael tops each ensemble with his homemade celery leaf salt. Tara, Leslie and Blvd co-owner Meghan Nacey swiftly grab the plates from the window as more empty ones are set on the line, until all 40 are gone.
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