Chef Howard Hanna has always believed that the best cuisine comes from the heartland. A Midwest native, Hanna started working in restaurants as a high school student in Manhattan, KS. He opened Coco Bolos in Kansas City in 1998, rising from sous chef to chef, an experience which launched a lifelong passion for food. In 2001, he graduated first in his class from the Culinary Institute of America, and gained invaluable experience working with Larry Forgione, a pioneer in American regional and sustainable cooking. A stage with Italian-born chef Giovanni Scappin taught him to respect the simple and beautiful art of pasta and risotto-making, and an immersion at Union Square Café deepened his understanding of hospitality under the country’s leading restaurateur, Danny Meyer. Hanna’s quest for food and wine knowledge led him to travel extensively through California, Italy and France, working in some of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants as well as local taquerias, trattorias, and bistros. He worked at Louis Jadot winery and Michelin-starred Hostellerie de Levernois in Burgundy, and at Michelin three-star Hostellerie de Levernois in Burgundy.
Hanna returned to Kansas City in 2003, and joined the cohort of chefs reshaping the historic culinary scene into a vibrant food destination. He joined Chefs Debbie Gold and James Beard-award winner Michael Smith of 40 Sardines, then helped to open Room 39, as chef de cuisine under Ted Habiger (formerly of Union Square Café). In 2007, Howard was appointed Executive Chef of the River Club, a landmark restaurant which allowed him to solidify partnerships with the rising stars of the local food movement from Green Dirt Farm to Crum’s Heirlooms, Test Kitchen, Chef’s Classic and Cochon 555. He continues to be a tireless advocate for local farmers and growers, often hosting acclaimed chefs and organizations such as Slow Food and James Beard in their discovery of the region.
Hanna realized a lifelong dream in 2010. He opened The Rieger as a Chef-Owner together with Partner Ryan Maybee. Situated in Kansas City’s Crossroads district, The Rieger is a beloved restaurant that embodies the best of today’s Midwestern cuisine, offering inspired dishes and hand-crafted cocktails informed by world experience, but crafted from local ingredients. Hanna’s second restaurant concept, Ça Va Champagne Bar, launched in 2014. Another first for Kansas City, Ça Va offers dozens of sparkling wines by-the-glass (including rare grower Champagnes) paired with Hanna’s take on bistro fare in an ultra-chic setting.