Tony Gordon, the new executive chef at The Westside Local in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood, took a traditional yet unusual path to chefdom. He worked his way up. Like French chefs Auguste Escoffier and Jacques Pepin, Gordon learned on the job rather than attending culinary school. “Coming out of high school, I got a side job as a line cook,” he says. “I never thought I’d be doing this full time, but I love it.“
Growing up on down-home dishes of collard greens and meatloaf, Gordon embraces the “rustic and local” vibe of the restaurant. He makes a mean jerk chicken with free-range birds from Buttonwood Farm in California, Missouri. He gets his arugula from Two Sisters Farm in Lecompton, Kansas, and strawberries from Goode Acres in Wathena, Kansas. Throughout the summer, he can pick herbs, peppers, leeks, kale, and okra from the restaurant’s own garden.
No tweezers to arrange tiny leaves, microgreens, or baby blossoms here; it’s all about the taste and texture of each dish. As with any green salad, the freshest and tiniest leaves are the best; too large can mean too tough. Gordon’s citrus vinaigrette sings with snappy, zesty flavor, a perfect foil to the peppery greens and ruby beets. With a touch of sweetness from the candied walnuts (or use candied pecans) and softness from the goat cheese, this garden and farm-to-table salad is perfect for June.
1 shallot, chopped
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 oranges, zested and juiced
1½ Tbsp. agave nectar
½ Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup white-wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 beets, roasted and quartered
8 cups arugula
5 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1 cup candied walnuts
2 cups strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
For the vinaigrette, add all ingredients to a small blender and blend until smooth. Set aside. (You will have extra to cover and refrigerate for another use.)
To roast the beets, scrub raw beets clean, coat with a little extra-virgin olive oil, wrap in foil, and roast in a 450 degree oven for 60 to 90 minutes, until fork tender. Set aside to cool.
For the salad, toss the arugula in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the greens among four plates. Top each salad with roasted beet quarters, candied walnuts, sliced strawberries, and goat cheese crumbles.