Maker Profile: Open Belly
Meet Open Belly, a podcast dedicated to exploring Kansas City’s vibrant and diverse food scene.
Where did you get the idea for Open Belly?
I lived in Southern California for about 12 years, and when we moved to Kansas City 3 years ago, I was excited to explore the food scene here. I missed a lot of the food we had access to in California, so I was eager to find a traditional taqueria, a Northern Thai restaurant, great Korean food, and so on. I was really impressed by the diverse food scene we have here in Kansas City, but I also felt a little discouraged that a few of the restaurant owners were struggling to get customers through the door. Initially, Open Belly was meant to inspire listeners to get out and explore new cuisines and support local small businesses. As I began to hear the chefs' stories, however, it evolved into a platform to talk about more than just food — it’s also a podcast about people, culture, and being curious and open minded.
Who in your community helped make this podcast happen?
I have such a wonderful team who has given so much to this project. Frank Norton, our art director, is an incredibly talented illustrator and he completely captured the feel I was going for with the artwork. I was hoping to find a decent photographer to work with, and I ended up with two amazing ones—Alyssa Broadus and Chris Dolt. They were both so passionate about this project and both wanted to be a part of it, so I couldn’t say no! We also have a fantastic volunteer social media guru + photo assistant, Christine Hofmeister. We record all of our interviews at Barrel of the Bottoms Studio in the West Bottoms, and our post-production editing team is Resonate Recordings, based in Louisville, Kentucky. I’m also very grateful for a few people in the KC community who have helped me figure out how to produce a podcast! Both Eric Hurst from MediaClub and Oliver Hughes gave me a ton of advice and tips on how to make this happen. I couldn’t have done it without them.
What draws you to this medium of storytelling?
Well, to be honest, I don’t particularly love the sound of my own voice. And I have zero experience in radio or broadcasting, aside from a couple of high school classes, so I am basically throwing caution into the wind to do this. But that said, I just didn’t think a blog post or an Instagram photo would really do this project justice. The emotion you can feel through the chefs’ voices is just incredible. I wish I could do video, too—maybe next season!
Where did you get your love of food?
I used to be a horrible cook. When my husband and I first started dating, I once tried to make him tortellini soup. I somehow broke the salt shaker and an entire container of sea salt fell into the pot of soup. He tried to eat a few bites so I wouldn’t be offended, but it was very inedible. The next year, I made it my new year’s resolution to become a more confident cook. I practiced a LOT of recipes, and I found that I actually enjoy cooking more than I thought I would. Living in LA, we had access to so many amazing restaurants, and dining out quickly became my favorite hobby. So the exposure to different cuisines and my new found love of cooking really came together into a new obsession.
What are some of the stories you're really excited to tell?
There are so many—it’s like asking me which child is my favorite. I’m excited for people to hear how Darrell Loo from Waldo Thai learned to accept himself and embrace his passion for the restaurant industry. I’m excited for people to learn about Fannie’s West African Cuisine, a hidden gem in this city with wonderful people who can teach us what community and togetherness are all about. I’m excited for people to hear how the family behind Sohaila’s Kitchen is using their restaurant as a way to show people that Muslims are just like anyone else. And I can’t wait for people to hear what many of these chefs are doing to give back to the community, like Keeyoung Kim from Sura Eats.
How can people get involved in the Open Belly mission?
It would be a dream if listeners would try all of the restaurants included on the podcast. Get your friends together and take an Open Belly tour! But there are so many more restaurants in Kansas City worthy of our time and attention beyond the 10 included in season one of the podcast, so my hope is that people would break out of their comfort zone, explore a new cuisine, and get to know the people behind the food. I’m also totally open to collaborating with people who have specific skills like editing, filmmaking, event planning, etc. Hit me up!
We know you're just now launching your first season (congratulations!), but where do you envision Open Belly going in the next year, and beyond?
It’s such a great question. When I started this podcast, I didn’t know if anyone (besides my mom) would even listen to it. I feel like it has taken flight and is already becoming much bigger than I had imagined. I’m open to the possibilities — exploring more restaurants, maybe exploring more cities, or who knows? I’m just keeping an open mind, an open heart, and an open belly.