The Best of Both Worlds

Cameron Gee

Upscale fine dining and eclectic casual dining succeed in a single location under the watchful expertise of Michael and Nancy Smith.

Upscale fine dining and eclectic casual dining succeed in a single location under the watchful expertise of Michael and Nancy Smith.

Many say Kansas City’s dining scene would not be where it is without Michael Smith—both the chef and the sophisticated restaurant that bears his name.

A protégé of Chicago’s late Charlie Trotter and Denver’s Jean-Pierre Lelievre, Smith grew up learning from his restaurant-manager mother and spent years studying in France. Since his early days at The American Restaurant—a Kansas City landmark—and later at his first restaurant, Forty Sardines in Leawood, Kansas, Smith has drawn a regular crowd and fiercely loyal staff.

In 2007, Smith married Nancy Mellor, his longtime general manager at Forty Sardines, and after a honeymoon in Europe, they returned to Kansas City to open their signature Michael Smith restaurant in just five weeks. Six months later, they followed it with the opening of Extra Virgin next door.

A Match Made in Restaurant Heaven

It’s been said that successful business partnerships are like successful marriages.

In this case it’s both. Hard to miss with his long ponytail, chef whites, and ear-to-ear smile, Chef Smith is a popular guy in his dining room, constantly called on by both regular and newbie customers. Smith’s so popular and outgoing, in fact, that he admits Nancy—his business-focused better half—often pulls him out of the dining room and back to the kitchen to keep service moving.

“We balance each other,” says the chef. “Nancy is a fixer and I would rather sit on a decision for a day or two. I’m also a ‘yes’ person and it’s hard for me to say ‘no,’ so I’m lucky Nancy manages the front of the restaurant.”

For Michael, the business-marriage partnership also works because, growing up in a restaurant family, he’s comfortable blending the personal with work. At home, you’re home; at work, you’re at work, he says.

While Michael drives the culinary vision for the restaurants and helms the kitchen with the occasional TV show appearance, Nancy runs the day-to-day operations with a “get it done” mentality that focuses on private events, office management, and table management. She is also an avid wine connoisseur and experienced beverage director, who personally handpicked the more than 400 bottles of wine—including many boutique and hard-to-find selections—housed in the two restaurants. In fact, both Michael Smith and Extra Virgin have earned awards for their impressive and thoughtful wine lists.



These two are indeed a powerhouse! We love both sides of the house and in fact, have dined for lunch at one and dinner at the other going both ways on multiple occasions! This is a must do destination dining experience whenever one is in Kansas City. If it's warm out, the patio at Extra Virgin is the place to be!


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