Just nine months after moving back to Kansas City, chef Kyle Williams will be representing his hometown on the Food Network. Williams, the executive chef for Good Food Good Futures (which currently operates the corporate kitchen for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City), will be a competitor on next Thursday’s episode of Beat Bobby Flay.
“The main reason I wanted to do it is that it’s a way to challenge myself,” Williams says. “I also want to show younger chefs that you can’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone whether it’s a new job or a new city.”
Williams, 31, is used to pushing himself. After graduating from Raytown South High School in 2002, he enrolled at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. There, he earned his bachelor’s in culinary nutrition.
“At a hospital, you usually have a chef and a nutritionist and they’re butting heads,” Williams says. “This degree brings everything together.”
He made his own name in New York City working for a series of well-known chefs: Todd English, David Burke and Daniel Boulud. When his wife Hannah became pregnant with their second child, the couple made the decision to move from the Upper East Side back to Kansas City to be closer to family.
“There is a great food scene here in Kansas City and there are so many talented people across a wide range of industries,” Williams says of their move in January.
While he manages the cafeteria for the 800 Blue Cross and Blue Shield employees, Williams is also working on another project. He’s looking to open his own restaurant, where he would be the principal and chef, in 2015.
“I’ve got a vision in my mind of doing some really cool stuff,” Williams says. “And I really feel like the vision for Kansas City is going to keep going and going. I don’t see a cap on it. I just see it continuing to grow.”
Williams applied earlier this year for Beat Bobby Flay and after four months of interviews was flown out to New York City to film the show. The reality cooking competition pits a pair of chef-testants — Williams battles Jeremiah Bullfrog (a food truck chef out of Miami, Florida) — against each other. Their food challenge is judged by a rotating cast of culinary guest stars (in this case, Chopped’s Ted Allen and Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli) and the winner of round one earns the right to face down Flay in a final head-to-head battle.
“It was an exciting opportunity. I’m a local Midwest, Kansas City boy and it’s great that we’re getting noticed more in the Midwest,” Williams says.
The episode featuring Williams is entitled Risky Business. It airs next Thursday, September 11, at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.