Cynthia and Kevin Samsel moved to the Hickman Mills neighborhood of Kansas City six years ago to be closer to family in the area and rehab a house. After a year of hearing gunfire too often, they changed their minds and wound up in Lee’s Summit.
For their anniversary, they took a quick getaway to Silver Heart Bed and Breakfast in Independence. Staying at B&Bs is an anniversary tradition. One year, they’d spent their honeymoon at one in Coos Bay, Oregon, and that sparked a dream for Cynthia of one day owning her own.
That dream got pushed aside for many years until one day over lunch with a friend, she shared her wish. The friend knew of a B&B for sale in Lee’s Summit. The couple viewed the online listing one day, toured it in person the next day, made an offer the day after that and it was accepted in a snap. It took just five days last July before the couple owned the place Cynthia had waited 33 years for.
The two-story, 133-year-old house on Third Street, the color of buttercream frosting, is now The Historic Browning bed & breakfast and event space. It opened to guests last October.
In addition to three uncluttered guest bedrooms, the Browning features a sunny room with a farmhouse-style table for meals, and another sunny room for teas and overflow dining. That space easily converts to a suite for brides dressing for their weddings. Well-worn wood floors creak pleasantly. The couple added the antiques and artwork themselves.
Cynthia, a chef who’s been cooking in restaurants since she was 15, developed a taste for world cuisine in the cultural melting pot of Southern California. She makes sure her guests’ meals are unique and memorable, whether it’s for a birthday brunch, baby shower, anniversary celebration or quilting retreat. Kevin, who owns Wheelhouse Property, a handyman business, maintains the home and helps manage special events.
Cynthia grows her own herbs, shops at the Lee’s Summit Farmers Market and partners with a number of local businesses for products like candles, soaps and wine.
In its most recent former life, the Browning was owned by Liesl Hayes, who is delighted it’s now owned by people who honor the building’s history.
“It’s amazing to see it flourish with chef-prepared meals and the owners onsite to support guest needs,” Hayes said.
In its earliest incarnation, after Elijah Browning built it in 1889, the house contained a grand piano where the family’s musical group The Browning Family Show — mother, father, two sons and five daughters — was created. They played publicly, including in the local train station.
Cynthia’s background has set her up to tackle the event space part of the business, ensuring a building with a history of bringing entertainment and comfort to people continues down the right path.
Samsel’s background as a cook, chef and caterer in California brought her in close contact with celebrities. At 17, she got a job with the large-venue production company Bill Graham Presents, and for eight years she did hospitality and cooking, responding to culinary requests from the likes of Jefferson Airplane, David Bowie, The Grateful Dead and Prince.
It was a comment from Diana Ross that changed her life. The singer came to the backstage kitchen and asked who had created the platter of fruits and vegetables carved into flowers.
“That was the catalyst for me to go in the direction of culinary arts,” she said. “That was what made me realize I had a flair for it and what made me go in the direction of catering.”
She started her catering company Classic Catering, which she operated for 15 years, even providing those services on a number of movie sets before selling the company and moving to the Kansas City area to be near her grandchildren.
She has taught cooking classes at the Kansas City Culinary Center and at A Thyme for Everything in Lee’s Summit, and has given lessons in schools and community centers.
Even with a lifetime of culinary expertise under her chef’s hat, things still go “completely wacko” sometimes. There was a malfunctioning stove when the staff was trying to cook 27 steaks for an event, for example. Then there was the Browning party complicated by a rainstorm that entailed maneuvering around buckets collecting the roof runoff.
But mishaps and all, after six years here, Lee’s Summit is home for the Samsels.
“I would never be anywhere else in the world,” Cynthia said. “This is what I love to do. Food is my love language.”