LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — The sweet smells from the smoker welcome you to Jazzy B’s Diner in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
Chef and owner Brandon Simpson lifted the lid as smoke came billowing out, revealing a full rack of ribs and brisket.
“Once I started selling burnt ends, I can’t keep burnt ends,” he said.
He is grateful for a stable business right now.
“Three weeks ago, we opened our dining room back up. Now I may go ahead and close it back down,” he said.
From rising cases to mask mandates, he is watching developments day-by-day.
“Since COVID, we’ve been mostly carryout," Simpson explained.
From smoked cocktails to seafood, customers at Jazzy B’s get much more than barbecue.
“Crab cakes, shrimp po boys, crab balls,” Simpson listed off some fan favorites.
But customers are also getting much more than food.
“I mean, food talks to the soul. Food relaxes everybody and opens em up,” Simpson said.
When customers take a seat, candid conversations often follow.
“You come in and waiting for your food or you want to just sit back and relax, have a beer and talk to us. That’s the barber chair,” he said, pointing to the blue chair by the cash register that looks like it belongs in a barbershop instead of a barbecue fusion restaurant.
Simpson’s buddy Tony Newland would disagree with that observation. He brought him the chair about a month ago.
“Something was missing and it had to be here,” he said. “But he’s good people. Good people don’t need ice breakers.”
“You talk about everything at a barbershop. At least that’s how it was when I grew up,” said Simpson, explaining the meaning behind the blue chair.
No matter where they sit, new customers are finding Jazzy B’s, and bringing conversations many are struggling to start.
“Once everything really started kicking off, Black Lives Matter and protests, things like that, we have the Support Black Business movement, we have a lot of folks come in,” Simpson said. “I’ve had some guys come in from the Ozarks. Really they – he just wanted to come in and talk to me and have that kind of open discussion. We just had a guy in here probably about fifteen minutes ago we were talking about that."
RELATED: Simpson joined 41 Action News anchor Lindsay Shively and award-winning food journalist Jill Silva on their podcast Chew Diligence. Listen below, or download wherever you find podcasts.
Simpson can see when someone wants to talk.
“Oh yeah you can tell, always, you know? And if I’m able to, let my guys know, they’ll cover me on the line," he said.
He welcomes the chance to do more than feed them.
“Growing up as a Black man and my experience of teaching my – living in a biracial family, so those things I will always welcome,” he said. “About the protests, doesn’t matter if it's about corona, it doesn’t matter really what it is but everybody’s learning something new. And so to be able to learn more you have to be open.”
In the end, his job is about more than business.
“When its all said and done, to keep conversation open, I’m all about that,” Simpson said.