Owners of Jess & Jim’s, RC’s named Restaurateurs of the Year
Photo by Diana Zarda
The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association has named Mike and David VanNoy, owners of Jess & Jim’s Steakhouse and RC’s Chicken, as restaurateurs of the year.
The announcement came as a surprise both during a scheduled GKCRA meet and greet held at Jess and Jim’s November 8th.
“We had no clue,” says Debbie VanNoy who runs Jess & Jim’s alongside husband Mike. “I was running around working. Mike was in the kitchen working. All of a sudden they presented the award and we weren’t even in there!”
Fortunately David and his wife Debbie VanNoy, who run RC’s, were in attendance and accepted the award.
“When Mike and I walked in they did it again!” recalls Debbie. “It was kind of funny.”
The VanNoys, who share equal ownership in both restaurants, will be given the award at a black tie affair on January 25.
The VanNoys will be in good company. The GKCRA has over a thousand members. “It’s a big honor,” said GKCRA President Kevin Timmons. Former recipients of the prestigious honor nominate and vote on the winner. “This year, it was the fastest vote we ever had, a testament to their hard work and dedication,” said Timmons.
The title has been a long time coming. Jess & Jim’s has been in business 80 years. Running only a couple of decades longer is the GLCRA itself, which celebrated 100 years in 2016. According to Debbie, this is the first time Jess & Jim’s has been recognized by the association. “It’s a big deal,” she says.
Jess and Jim’s was founded by Jess Kincaid and Jim Wright in 1938. For only 25 cents, Jess sold his share of the business to Jim after the first year. RC VanNoy, Jess’s cousin, became a business partner in 1949. It was in 1972 that Jess & Jim’s gained its claim to fame when an article in Playboy magazine called it “the finest steakhouse in the world.” It was the first of many such recognitions to come.
A year later, due to a falling out with Wright, RC started his own fried chicken restaurant down the road. Within a couple of months, the two partners were on good terms again.
Having no children of his own, Jim left the restaurant to the VanNoy family in 1978. He passed away in 1981.
According to the brothers, their dad was not a cook. In fact, the recipes at RC’s are David’s, who started cooking in the kitchen when it opened. RC gave control of both restaurants to Mike and David in 1994. He passed away in 2001.
So what would RC have said about his sons’ recent achievement?
“He’d say ‘Wah-hoo!’” laughs David.
“I hope he would be proud we carried the torch,” says Mike. “He warned us that if we don’t treat this place like a person, it’s going to die. It’s a living, breathing organism–if we don’t take care of it, it won’t take care of us.”