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Story. An Elegant Blend of Food, Wine and Excellence

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What is better than hearing a terrific story told by a gifted storyteller? Sitting down with the celebrated and gifted “story”-teller and owner, Chef Carl Thorne-Thomsen, and hearing, in his own words, how he turned a desire to write into a passion for food.

Chef Carl grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in English literature. He left the east coast to attend the masters of fine arts program in creative writing at Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas. 

While studying creative writing, Carl found great joy in the creative process of cooking and soon taught himself enough about cooking to land a kitchen job at a small gourmet food store/cafe in Wichita. There, he met his future wife, Susan, now one of the Story owners. 

I asked Chef Carl about the creative connection between writing and cooking, and his answer was surprising. One might expect the weaving of words to be compared to balancing and layering flavors, but Chef Carl described the relationship of writing and cooking quite differently. “When writing, the challenge of creating something from nothing can be frustrating, like staring at the blank page. But when cooking, you actually start with something, perhaps a bright, heirloom tomato, and from there the imagination goes to work.” 

While I sampled the salmon, Susan talked about their journey. Their story of resolve, sacrifice and passion is inspiring and made each delicious bite mean a little more. By the way, those oyster mushrooms were a rich and savory surprise, carefully tucked under the lightly seared salmon and served with tomatillo rice and seasonal fresh corn. I loved this dish; it was light and full of flavor!

I asked Susan what set her husband apart and what she believed was his specialty. “His specialty is that he can do it all, and that also sets him apart. He is passionate about his craft, he is meticulous about sourcing only the highest quality food and ingredients, he is creative and has an unbelievable palate for food and wine.”

Both Carl and Susan emphasize that sourcing only the best ingredients is the way you make the very best food. “I source ingredients carefully, locally when I can, but whether local or not, I always try to find the best, freshest and most interesting,” said Carl. He is a recognized regular at our own Overland Park Farmers Market, “It’s great that we have such high-quality produce in our own community.” His eggs come from Green Gate Family Farms and the micro-basil is grown at the restaurant. Only the best and freshest will do. 

The quality of the heirloom black angus is as evident as the care and attention to detail that went into preparing the center-cut ribeye. Cooked to perfection, topped with a bit of roasted tomato sauce and served with potato puree and roasted poblano peppers and sliced squash, this is a must-order item! When I commented on the bread, Susan said that the amazing bread they currently serve at Story is the same recipe Carl brought to her store in Wichita years ago. 

While I sampled and thoroughly enjoyed the heirloom tomatoes with avocado puree, goat cheese and pistachios, Susan shared a little more about their start as well as the regional and national recognition the chef has received over the years. Carl and Susan made Kansas City their home in 2003 and Carl worked in some of Kansas City’s more prestigious restaurants for seven years before opening Story in the Prairie Village Shops in 2011.

In 2013 and again in 2022, Carl was honored with a James Beard Foundation nomination for Best Chef: Midwest. In 2014 Carl was named Food and Wine magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef. The couple looks forward to celebrating Story’s 12th anniversary and 20 years of marriage next spring.

It’s not possible to overstate the impact COVID had on the restaurant industry; it’s also not possible to overstate the loyalty and support Carl and Susan felt from their community. Curbside pickup kept Carl, Susan and their kids very busy but more importantly, it provided their loyal clientele with a delicious and always-special meal during some rough times. Susan and Carl are beyond grateful for the support of their community and are thrilled to be seeing everyone in person again! Story opens at 4:30, Wednesday through Sunday, for dinner. 

I’ve made plans to celebrate our wedding anniversary at Story, and according to reliable sources, I must order the ceviche! But I don’t want to wait, so this Thursday I’ll order online, pick up curbside and enjoy their famous Burger Night on our patio while watching the Chiefs! Next week, I’ll take a friend on Wednesday for Campo Lindo Farms Fried Chicken Night. Both visits will definitely include the seasonal dessert featuring a poached peach served with light cinnamon cake, sugared blackberries and whipped cream.

Visit for reservations and menu previews. 

By: Sheryl Hammontree

Art director, illustrator and entrepreneur Sheryl Hammontree is happiest when creating. As a freelancer, she creates visual styling and targeted messaging to strategically solve challenges for clients. As the owner of Thoughtful Threads, she creates expressive apparel to empower people and build a community of kindness. Sheryl heads outside to find energy, inspiration and calm; whether in the garden or on a trail, her soul is fed by creating memories with her husband, Joel, family and friends.