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Brandon Simpson is pictured in the Jazzy B's diner he owns and operates in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

Brandon Simpson is pictured in the Jazzy B's diner he owns and operates in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

Jan. 25, 2022

Jazzed about food: Simpson maintains passion for food, connections at diner


Brandon Simpson ’99 gets a twinkle in his eye when he talks about the time as a child that he helped his grandmother bake a cherry pie. When she served the pie at a family gathering, she deflected the compliments, giving young Brandon all the credit.

The moment spurred something in Simpson that continued through his teenage years in Waterloo, Iowa, from get-togethers with family and friends to cooking his own meals while his mother worked multiple jobs.

“You get to playing with stuff and you find these flavors,” Simpson said. “We had some very eclectic neighbors where I got to try some of their stuff and how they do things, and you just evolve. I just knew that if I was going to do anything outside of sports, it was cooking.”

Simpson arrived at Northwest in the fall of 1997 to join the Bearcat football team as a transfer student and was a part of the program’s first two national championships in 1998 and 1999. But food was as much a part of Simpson’s college experience as his football success, and he created a business plan as a food science and restaurant management major for a restaurant he dubbed Jazzy B’s.

“It cost way too much for a kid coming out of college to start something like that,” he said. “It was just a mock. I think I got an okay grade on it.”

But in 2010, after honing his skills through a series of restaurant management roles, sales jobs and a catering gig on the side, Simpson took his first steps toward making Jazzy B’s a reality and launched his idea as a food truck.

“I jazz up what a traditional dish looks like or tastes like,” he said. “Jazzy is the guy that’s in the kitchen doing all the crazy creations – the brisket tacos, the rueben rolls, the smoked chilichangas – that I’ve done over the years. That’s my alter ego.”

Through years of trial and error, Simpson built a brand, and his mouth-watering menu – with its crab cakes, shrimp po’boys and barbecue sushi – eventually gained traction. In 2016, he opened his diner in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, where his Jazzy Fries, burnt ends and crab balls are popular.

With a loft dedicated to Northwest and displaying memorabilia from Simpson’s Bearcat football days, Jazzy B’s also has become a gathering place for alumni in the Kansas City area. In recent years, the restaurant has hosted numerous social events for alumni and watch parties. The Bearcat football team also visits occasionally, triggering fond memories for Simpson of road trips with his teammates.

“I love it,” he said. “There’s something to be said about the connection, that ‘Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat,’ and the friendships that we formed. Then, once you start meeting other people, different years of graduation, different ages, the memories and the conversations are just so similar, and you connect with them.”

For more information about Jazzy B’s, visit jazzybsdiner.com.

Media contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704