A longtime Waldo restaurant and sweets shop is under new ownership, Chef Bryan Sparks announced, serving up a plan to fix the broken restaurant industry he thought he’d left behind.
But a more immediate and daunting task awaits ahead of the Classic Cookie & Cafe’s relaunch in December: crafting the best breakfast sandwich in Kansas City, he said.
“Every detail of every dish is being analyzed, constructed, and gone over by many sets of eyes,” the founder of the pandemic-launched, chef-driven Beloved-On the Go meal preparation and catering company said, referencing ways he’s been able to tap into his 12 years of experience in the kitchen — a veteran of The Jacobsen, Jax, and Broadway Bistro, to help guide him.
Countless mentors have helped too, Sparks added, quick to point out no one has turned down the chance to help him conduct research on the project, which is expected to round out a Classic Cookie menu that includes a crab cake eggs benedict and a lineup of (classic) cookies and pastries.
“I know it sounds horrible having to eat breakfast sandwiches all over the city,” he laughed. “Our goal is to just be the best at what we do. We’re not going to put anything on the menu just to have it on the menu.”
Click here to place a holiday pre-order ahead of the formal relaunch of the Classic Cookie.
Sparks and his partner, Hailee Allen, plan to open the revitalized Classic Cookie & Cafe space at 409 W. Gregory Boulevard next month. There they’ll double down on the fast-growing Beloved — vacating kitchen space within Kansas City, Kansas-based Food Truck Central — and work to recapture (and enhance) the nostalgia of Classic Cookie.
Beloved meals and sides such as fajita bowls and corn and black bean salad will be sold through a grab-and-go case at the restaurant’s counter. And the meal preparation and catering operation already is well-known for its hearty plates and popular breakfast tacos.
“Our main goal — excuse my french — is to [make] great food and not fuck it up. We aren’t reinventing the wheel,” Sparks said. “We aren’t getting overly complicated — which, through arrogance, is a mistake I’ve made when creating menus before.”
“We just want to make good biscuits and gravy.”
An unexpected sign
Taking over the Classic Cookie operation was an unforeseen, but exciting opportunity that Sparks and Allen couldn’t turn down once they were in the mix, he said.
“When you’re not looking for a relationship, that’s typically when you find your next partner,” Sparks told Startland News.
“My mom happened to go to The Classic Cookie to get a brunch table for us one day and they said they were closed,” he recalled, noting the eatery has been a mainstay in the metro since 1988. It expanded a decade later into the Waldo space from its original storefront on the Country Club Plaza.
“They had a for sale sign on the door. I called them about 10 minutes after she sent me that message and two-and-a-half weeks later we got the keys.”
It’s important for Sparks and Allen to maintain what it’s meant to the neighborhood, while giving it revitalized flavor, he said, emphasizing changing demographics in Waldo and acknowledging the effort presents a tremendous opportunity for a modernization of the restaurant’s brand and product.
“There are a lot of young people, young families buying houses in that area now. They want a place that represents them.”
The first significant change the pair has ordered up includes the launch of a coffee program in partnership with Parisi Coffee, Sparks said.
A healthy, chef-driven workplace
Sparks also wants to continue creating change, he said, referencing his decision to leave the restaurant industry in pursuit of a better, more balanced life, earlier this year.
Click here to read more about the launch of Beloved-On the Go and Sparks path toward entrepreneurship and how he hopes it creates a legacy for his daughter, Esme.
Beloved-On the Go
Beloved-On the Go is a meal delivery system — not a service, Hailee Allen noted — designed to nourish equally-busy customers with chef-driven, health-conscious, ready-to-eat meals without a subscription or other long-term commitments.
The company grew to six employees within its first quarter of operation.
“There’s a lot of talk going around about how nobody wants to work in the restaurant industry anymore — and while I think that might, on some level, be true … I think it’s because people don’t want to work in unhealthy environments anymore,” he said candidly, committing Classic Cookie to baking change in a long-fractured industry, further broken down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our goal is to create a healthy, constructive, well balanced culture from the get go.”
Such a commitment means Classic Cookie will offer livable wages, pay for 75-percent of a full-time employees healthcare, and follow a strict scheduling regimen that lets staff know when they’re expected to work at least a month in advance — not days or hours before a shift; as has become ustom in restaurant work, Sparks said.
“Things like that are going to make us a place where somebody wants to work. Employees want to feel like they’re being taken care of — that their needs are being met. [At Classic Cookie] you can actually plan a life.”