Kansas City Chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant has a vision: to use her culinary expertise to create job opportunities for people in need while providing nourishing food to her community. In a few short weeks, Chef Shanita’s newest venture, The Spot, will open its doors to the public taking her one step closer to that vision.
McAfee-Bryant has long been a staple in the KC food scene. Her brick-and-mortar restaurant Magnolia’s Southern Cuisine, had a cult following before she shifted back to catering. Chef Shanita gained national attention appearing on the Food Network shows “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
The Spot is different from her previous ventures; it’ll be a cafe with a rotating seasonal menu, coffee shop, and a small grocery selection. Located at 2000 Vine St., the Spot will share space with KC’s first Black-owned brewery, Vine Street Brewing. When you enter the limestone building at 2000 Vine St., to the left will be the Vine Street taproom, and to the right is The Spot.
“It’s a continuation of a family legacy — growing up, my dad worked right by here,” says McAfee-Bryant. “Our first catering kitchen was [nearby] so I remember, in the mid to late 90s, looking at these dilapidated buildings and the rundown castle and thinking, ‘man, there’s so much this could be.’ So it’s really a full circle moment.”
Beyond being a place to eat, The Spot will focus on helping others and the neighborhood. There will be prepared food affordable for people in the neighborhood, healthy and nutritious groceries in an otherwise for purchase in what would otherwise be a food desert and a training program to help struggling people gain the skills and knowledge to secure stable employment.
McAfee-Bryant says the location is important not just for the neighborhood’s history, located near 18th and Vine, but also her own background.
Fostering a Healthy Neighborhood
The Spot is being opened with the neighborhood in mind.
“The cafe is priced and designed for people who live in this neighborhood,” McAfee-Bryant said. “Of course, we want everybody to come, but we are really focusing on the residents and the people around us.” McAfee-Bryant says
The Spot will also feature a fresh grocery section that will accept SNAP benefits, giving people living in the neighborhood access to healthier options in what would otherwise be a healthy food desert.
For those low on funds, The Spot will have a ‘neighborhood account,’ which can help pay for groceries. The neighborhood account will be funded through community donations and grants, allowing community members in need to enroll for grocery funds. The money can be used to purchase groceries and prepare family meals, ensuring each person in the neighborhood has access to food regardless of income.
The Spot also aims to help struggling people gain the skills and knowledge to secure stable employment through a training program that includes paid jobs at the restaurant Chef Shanita says that past employment, education, or record won’t matter; if you want to work at The Spot, the only requirement is that you are living near poverty.
“We’re trying to empower people,” says McAfee-Bryant. “We want to teach them how to cook, but we also want to give them the tools they need to succeed in life.”
The Prospect Training Program students will participate in a 16-week on-site apprenticeship program where they’ll receive paid culinary training. Afterward, they may stay on at The Spot in an internship or move to an externship with a partnered qualified employer.
The Prospect work program’s participants will receive mentorship from experienced chefs and staff members, as well as access to resources such as financial counseling and childcare. While the program is a culinary workforce development program, McAfee-Bryant says the goal is to help those in need reach economic stability.
Training program participants will meet with program support services for up to two years or until they meet sustained economic mobility and feel they no longer need the services.
“I don’t want people to get hung up on the culinary part,” says McAfee-Bryant. “We want to look at what your individual barriers are and design a plan to specifically deal with that,” says McAfee-Bryant of The Prospect apprenticeship program. “Every single person’s individual training plan is going to be different because, unlike this current system, we’re not treating them as a monolith.”
A specific date for The Spot’s grand opening has not been officially announced. McAfee-Bryant says it will be opening “in a matter of weeks.”