How many people in the Dodge City area are interested in the occasional fine dining experience and how much would they be willing to pay for it?
Those are questions on the mind of chef Ryan Emery, executive chef for the United Wireless Arena and Magouirk Conference Center.
Emery began thinking about some creative possibilities for the use of the club level space at the arena when he donated a dinner for four to be auctioned at the Boots and Beer fundraiser.
"I really just wanted to do something to support Boot Hill, so I donated the meal for four. I think it sold for about $1,100. Then friends of the guy who bought it wanted in on the deal so I donated another dinner for four, then another and then a fourth. Then they all decided they wanted to do it together, so we did a really nice meal for them on Valentine's Day last year," Emery said in an interview last week.
And when Boots and Beer rolled around again, Emery offered the same package to Boot Hill and the same people bought it and planned another Valentine's Day dinner.
This year's meal was slightly less elaborate, but succeeded in pleasing the guests.
Emery opened the meal with Mussels Marinara, followed with Spicy Tuna Tartare.
The main course was Braised Veal Cheek on a bed of Candied Molasses Brussels Sprouts.
A fish course followed, consisting of Seared Rock Fish with Butternut Squash Coconut Curry Soup.
A Mint Infused Raspberry Sherbet cleansed palates before the final flourish of Coffee Creme Brulee.
"I know there's a market for fine dining in Dodge City, because I've talked to the people who would be interested," Emery said.
"It wouldn't work on a daily basis, but maybe every other week," he said.
Emery's plan is to roll out the concept sometime in April.
The club level of the arena will be set up to accommodate 30 to 40 diners.
Emery will offer a limited menu with several choices of appetizers, main courses and desserts.
"When word got out that we were doing the Valentine's Dinner, I had eight phone calls from people wanting to buy tickets. I had to explain that it was a private event so there were no tickets for sale. They were insistent," Emery said.
Emery hopes that the new venture, if successful, will help keep his core staff busy during slow times at the arena and, of course, bring in some extra revenue.
"We're not looking to steal business from anyone else out there, but we feel like this would be something that's not currently available elsewhere," he said.
Emery has been with the arena almost since it opened and stays busy most of the time.
Page 2 of 2 - "I can easily put in 90 hours a week when we're busy," he said.
Emery and his wife, Amanda, moved to Dodge City two years ago.
"I came from a small town, but Amanda is from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, so she had a little culture shock at first," he said.
The Emerys welcomed their second son, Samson Hunter, Jan. 22 and Emery says Dodge City is a good place to raise a family.
"We've been trying new things in the concessions at the arena and bookings have been really busy in the conference center. Now I'm anxious to try another new idea," Emery said.
Follow Don Steele on Twitter @Don_dcglobe.