Fiber Joe Interviews Stretch from Grinders at the 27th Annual Fiery Foods Show



STRETCH says, as far back as he can remember, he’s enjoyed food. His interest was daily, sometimes 2-3 times a day. He was addicted to this — it felt natural. Most people around him were doing it, so he said to himself, why not continue? Eating, along with the urge to create as he got older led to opening 2 restaurants, Grinders & Grinders West, and building sculpture for a living.

     Some of the earliest cooking jobs STRETCH had were at a Woolworths lunch counter in the Philadelphia area and, in high school, part-time work at a McDonalds. The need for money and uncertainty about his future drove him into the food industry. It wasn’t until his passion for creating art took over that STRETCH was enrolled at Kansas City Art Institute. While in art school, having no money lends itself to creatively learning how to survive, experimenting with food on hot plates, grilling with irons and cooking hotdogs on nails. This was the true beginning to his future of creating food and art.

     STRETCH continued his love of art and went for his Masters of Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, where he built sculpture by day and cooked and bartended to get-by at night. While this was all happening, STRETCH hooked-up with the shock rock-n-roll performance band GWAR and a whole new arena opened up before his eyes. Touring. This idea of linear living, of limited budgets, deli trays and food experimentation was a way of life that coincided with his travels as an artist. STRETCH has built sculpture around the world and has eaten and enjoyed the local fare from coast to coast and across the globe. Some memorable food moments include, eating slaughtered goat with the Masai tribe in Africa, and shaving pigs in the Caucasus Mountain region of the Republic of Georgia. In the last few years, STRETCH has completed a large-scale sculpture for the H&R Block World Headquarters in Kansas City, as well as four sculptures for the Woodsweather Bridge, a part of the Heritage Trail, for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County in Kansas City, KS. STRETCH has been building large-scale sculpture for more than twenty five years. Both Dale Eldred and Jim Leedy mentored STRETCH into the growing Kansas City art scene. STRETCH has since worked with many renowned artists including Mark di Suvero and John Henry. STRETCH has worked with numerous artists on public commissions – for airports, college campuses, and city sculpture parks around the world. Recently presented an Urban Hero Award, STRETCH plays a major role in the community. He served as vice president of KC’s oldest non-profit artist coalition, KCAC, has been a board member for Review Magazine and the Crossroads Community Association. He has served as a member of Kansas City’s TIF Commission and recently the Board of Directors for the International Sculpture Center.

     STRETCH believes there is a common thread between art, food and music, they cross all cultural boundaries. This vision is why he opened Grinders, Grinders West and CrossroadsKC at Grinders music venue in the Heart of the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.  Grinders has been an accumulation of STRETCH’s travels and life experiences — a food-art-music-fusion inspired by places like punk club CBGBs, Maxs Kansas City, night clubs, and classic dive joints with quality food and a fun atmosphere. A great experience at a great price whether you’re an artist, government official, lawyer, a musician, or a clown.

     Creating the menu for Grinders was an obvious choice for STRETCH.  He didn’t want to starve and missed his East-Coast roots filled with Philly cheesesteaks and NY-style pizza, the idea of Grinders was born. Infusing the menu with his artistic flair, specialties like the Death Wings, the Chili Bomb Pie and Grinders Signature Hot Sauces were created as well as featured on the FOOD Network. Grinders has since gained world-wide notoriety thanks to the hit shows Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, Guys Big Bite & Travel Channel’s Pizza Paradise. STRETCH has since toured twice with Guy Fieri on his national Foodapalooza Roadshow and the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, showcasing his custom 25-gallon monster margarita machine. STRETCH has traveled with America’s Chefs, cooking and entertaining for the military around the world. Now he has developed and continues to support the military through Messlords with many featured chefs from around the country.

     In addition to public art and food, STRETCH has expanded his creative career to television, which has included direct participation in Discovery Channel’s hit show, Monster House as well as working with ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for five episodes.  For EMHE, STRETCH built a Fire Fountain piece on location in Kansas City, created custom steel furniture for a family in Witchita, KS and designed an extreme monster truck bedroom as well as a custom flagpole and Marine Corps memorabilia for the Gilyeat family.  In 2006, STRETCH built a monumental fire and water fountain sculpture and custom furniture for the Sabine Pass Firestation No. 4 that was damaged in Hurricane Rita.  Currently, STRETCH is filming television shows for the SPIKE channel, Discovery Channel & Animal Planet as well as participating in renovations on episodes of Bar Rescue and numerous local TV & radio programs.

     Through all the trials, ideas and successes, STRETCH will be the first to tell you, he could not do this all on his own. It takes great employees, partners and people like you to make this all happen.

This guy is another one of my favorites. Check out this interview, you’ll get a kick out of it.


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