Jonathan Pye

Jonathan Pye, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

When you’re the chef at a museum restaurant, finding inspiration for artistic cuisine is always close at hand.

Chef Jonathan Pye makes food worthy of its surroundings for the Rozzelle Court Restaurant at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Located in a dramatic 15th century Italian-style courtyard with tiled floors and a Roman fountain that dates to 200 A.D., Rozzelle Court serves signature salads, sandwiches, soups, breads and desserts with emphasis on seasonal ingredients. The fall menu might feature a warming curried pumpkin soup with candied ginger and house-made gnocchi with Brussels sprouts and brown butter cream sauce.

“When my team and I think of new dishes for the restaurant, the best and freshest ingredients are always the base from which we start. Working in such a great museum, inspiration is always close at hand,” Jonathan says.

Voted the best U.S. museum by Yelp reviewers, Nelson-Atkins offers free admission to half a million visitors annually and serves as a cornerstone of educational, social and cultural life in Kansas City.

Rozzelle Court hosts more than 800 special events every year and on Friday evenings transforms from a self-serve café-style concept to a fine dining venue with white linen tablecloths and a weekly changing menu. In 2015, the restaurant hosted a ten-course dinner in the museum’s elegant cloister for famed Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. The dinner coincided with an exhibit about the visualization and drawing practices Adria used to create menus for elBulli, one of the world’s most popular restaurants until it closed in 2011.

Jonathan excels at crating artful small plates and amusé bouche for events like the museum’s weekly Thursday happy hour with cocktails and a collections tour. The Perfect Purée gives him the edge he needs to keep things interesting and presents countless options for finessing ingredients.

“The Perfect Purée’s products offer intense flavor and consistency, and also save time and labor, which is very appealing to busy chefs,” he says.

Jonathan was born in Manchester, England, and apprenticed in a 16th century hotel after culinary school. He worked at several restaurants in England before moving to the U.S. in 1997 where he became the lead chef at a country club and hotel in McPherson, Kansas. He also worked at a catering company near Kansas City where for two years running he won Pitch Magazine’s Iron Fork competition.

Jonathan returned to England to open his first solo venture, Ruby’s, on the northwest coast of England, where he focused on fish caught outside the restaurant. Back in the U.S. again, he created menus for high-profile special events at large cultural institutions around the country as a travelling chef for the food and beverage management company Culinaire and in 2008 won Culinaire International’s Executive Chef of the Year award.