Nebraska can have a pull on people.
Consider a young Nebraskan heading out into the world, bright-eyed and ready to experience everything international cuisine has to offer. He travels from one country to another, learning culinary skills unheard of in his home state at the time. But he just can’t get Nebraska out of his head.
Chef Kane Adkisson, a self-proclaimed “little nobody from Omaha,” spent his early professional years working alongside some of the world’s best chefs in some of the most sought-after kitchens. The list of some of the establishments he’s cooked in sounds more like an exhilarating tour of Michelin-rated restaurants than a list of previous workplaces: Maaemo in Norway, Saison and Coi in San Francisco, and RyuGin in Tokyo.
Before embarking on his whirlwind culinary adventure, he cut his teeth at The Boiler Room for several years.
Adkisson says he fell in love with cooking his freshman year at Omaha Central High School. Upon graduating, he enrolled in Metropolitan Community College’s Culinary Arts program.
“Metro’s a great facility,” Adkisson says. “It’s a good way to get a taste of it without getting into a bunch of debt.”
But the real story of his love affair with international cuisine stems from a longstanding family tradition. “Every Christmas our family picks a country and themes the holidays to that country,” he explains. “Early on I got to try different cuisines.”
His fate seemed sealed by some advice from his grandfather. “Grandpa told me if I was a cook I could travel anywhere.”
And travel he did, but he never lost the desire to return to Omaha. As a “naïve Midwest kid with ideas,” he didn’t understand how people could go back on handshake deals and found himself let down frequently.
Adkisson also grew tired of the faster pace he found outside his home state. “It takes being away from it and being claustrophobic in Tokyo. It’s a rat race outside of Omaha,” he says. “What we have here is less but more.”
While living and working in San Francisco, he started offering pop-up restaurants featuring what he called “Nebraska Cuisine.” The San Franciscans loved it. Adkisson created a “cornflake bite” that was such a big hit that it’s “run on every menu since.”
Though he’s busy preparing to open a restaurant with his brothers Kye and Collin, he intends to “keep momentum up with the pop-ups.” They are still in negotiations for the location of the future restaurant, but he’s hoping for downtown. “That location has so much character; it’s unique,” Adkisson says. “There’s a story behind every building.” It’s a good fit because, as he says, “We pride ourselves on our uniqueness.”
The opening of the restaurant with his brothers will only serve to solidify his desire to be in Omaha. “I look to my left and to my right, and my brothers are there,” says Adkisson, a chef who has worked alongside some of the best chefs in the world. “That’s what cooking is about. It’s home.”
Visit facebook.com/kano.omaha for more information.
This article was printed in the June 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.