November 29, 2021

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Meet some of the young chefs who make up Wichita’s new guard

Get to know some of the young chefs who make up Wichita’s new guard.

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Josh Rathbun is executive chef at Elderslie Farm. (October 5, 2021) Jaime Green The Wichita Eagle

Josh Rathbun

Job: Executive chef, Elderslie Farm, 3501 E. 101st St. N., Kechi

Age: 35

Hometown: Wichita

Restaurant resume: Former executive chef at Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, Wichita; executive sous chef at Mercantile Dining and Provisions, Denver; head butcher at Douglas Avenue Chop Shop, Wichita; demi chef at Quay, Sydney, Australia; lead line cook at Fruition, Denver

How did you become interested in cooking? “I had worked as a cook to make money since I was a young man. When I was in college and struggling to figure out my future, Chef (Jeremiah) Harvey encouraged me to pursue cooking as a career.”

What makes Wichita a special place for dining? “The local growers, extended growing season/moisture. A local culture that values dining out.”

One thing you’d like to change about Wichita’s restaurant scene: Someone please open a Xiao Long Bao restaurant.

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: Watermark Cafe, 4701 E. Douglas

Your philosophy on your job: “Be better than yesterday.”

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Jordan Rickard, the former executive chef at Napoli Italian Eatery, is working on a new restaurant. (Oct. 5, 2021) Jaime Green The Wichita Eagle

Jordan Rickard

Job: Former executive chef at Napoli Italian Eatery, 7718 E. 37th St. N.; working on a new restaurant with his brother, Jason

Age: 32

Hometown: Wichita

Training: Johnson and Wales University-Denver

Restaurant resume: Sous chef at Beast+Bottle, Denver; meat and pastry cook at Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado

How did you become interested in cooking? “I kept making these increasingly elaborate meals for my friends and eventually decided to get a job as a dishwasher just to get my foot in the door. I remember I wore a dress shirt and shoes to the interview while the chef was sitting on an upturned bucket while smoking a cigarette.”

What makes Wichita a special place for dining? “Every time I would come back to Wichita to visit my parents, I would keep seeing more images of the Wichita flag on stickers, in windows and on street art. I think it’s indicative of this resurgence of local pride and support for small businesses that is really thrilling to be a part of.”

One thing you’d like to change about Wichita’s restaurant scene: “I wish more people were open to a wider variety of vegetables.”

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: Sport Burger, 134 N. Hillside

Your philosophy on your job: “Undersell. Over deliver.”

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Bill Crites is preparing to open Buenos ‘Dillas. (Oct. 5, 2021) Jaime Green The Wichita Eagle

Bill Crites

Job: Founder of soon-to-open Buenos ‘Dillas restaurant, 410 N. Hillside

Age: 37

Training: Texas Culinary Academy/Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

Restaurant resume: Executive chef at Hooray Ranch in Kingman, Dempsey’s, and 37 West at Koch; sous chef at Olivia in Austin, Texas.

How did you become interested in cooking? “My grandmother was a professional taste tester for several large national brands. She had a wonderful palate and was a great cook. I first became interested in cooking while spending time visiting with her and my grandfather in Chicago as a child. By age 6, I was extremely interested in cooking but didn’t explore it seriously until my 20s.”

What makes Wichita a special place for dining? “The dining public seems genuinely interested in new and exciting options; the more that our city grows, the more I seem to notice this. Additionally, we are fortunate to have people who seem to really want to support anything that’s good.”

One thing you’d like to change about Wichita’s restaurant scene: “It would be neat to have a few areas in town that are mostly just restaurants. Like an area where you could head to for the evening and basically just walk from place to place but have a rest time for a few hours hopping around from place to place.”

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: La Chona, 3415 E. Harry

Your philosophy on your job: “Start with the best ingredients and then just don’t mess them up.”

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Jennifer Reifschneider is executive chef at 6S Steakhouse. (Oct. 5, 2021) Jaime Green The Wichita Eagle

Jennifer Reifschneider

Job: Executive chef, 6S Steakhouse, 6200 W. 21st St.

Age: 33

Hometown: Wichita

Training: The Art Institute of Colorado, Denver

Resume: Dave & Buster’s, Denver; line cook, sous chef and executive sous chef, Woodfire Grille at the Kansas Star Casino, Mulvane

How did you become interested in cooking? “I got interested in cooking for a living when I was in high school. I always loved to cook and really enjoyed taking food classes in school. I would religiously watch ‘Emeril Live’ and just decided that’s what I wanted to be.”

What makes Wichita a special place for dining? “I think Wichita’s diverse culture makes for a special place for dining. You can find some incredible food from just about any place on the map.”

One thing you’d like to change about Wichita’s restaurant scene: “One thing I would like to see changed is the number of corporate restaurants and more support for the small local restaurants. The trend has definitely shifted in the last few years, but we have a ways to go yet.”

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: “I’m a sucker for tacos. I love Tacos tj 664.” 1014 N. West St.

Your philosophy on your job: “My philosophy on my job is to never stop learning and growing as a chef. I try to read and study up on what the top chefs around the world are doing and see how I can apply that to the Wichita diner. I also believe it’s important to be a mentor for the younger cooks just starting out. Any knowledge we can pass on as chefs will only help the future of the Wichita restaurant scene.”

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Katharine Elder is founder of and creative director at Elderslie Farm. (Oct. 5, 2021) Jaime Green The Wichita Eagle

Katharine Elder

Job: Founder, creative director at Elderslie Farm, 3501 E. 101st St. N., Kechi

Age: 36

Hometown: Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, raised in Wichita

Training: “Self-taught/great mentors”

How did you become interested in cooking? “Wanting to use the produce from our farm to share convivial hospitality while celebrating and elevating the produce from right around us as I’ve seen modeled, particularly in the northern Italian countryside.”

What makes Wichita a special place for dining? “We have many talented and proficient growers and producers as well as a community of people interested in and willing to patronize restaurants doing interesting things. The cost of living here also supports more frequent dining out.”

One thing you’d like to change about Wichita’s restaurant scene: “I’d love to see more small restaurants (50-60 seats) with short, intentionally curated menus.”

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: “Depends on the day! Love Piatto (1706 E. Douglas) for pizza and a quick night out. I’m also a sucker for mussels, so if those are on the menu, I like the place.”

Your philosophy on your job: “When asked about the ‘why’ behind being a chef, I find that I believe very strongly in the humanizing aspects of the table. Being able to provide respite and lovely experiences for people is such an honor. Having the opportunity to do that through responsibly produced, excellent ingredients brought to their highest potential is even better. Hospitality has the ability to build community like no other industry, in my opinion. The opportunity to create something beautiful — not just food but an experience for others — keeps me invigorated and excited every day. We still have so much to learn and so far to go.”

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Public at the Brickyard chef Travis Russell is also an owner. (Oct. 5, 2021) Jaime Green The Wichita Eagle

Travis Russell

Job: Chef/owner at Public, 129 N. Rock Island

Age: 41

Hometown: Wichita

Training: “On the job. I have always worked in restaurants while pursuing college degrees in visual art. First In Lawrence and later in St. Louis. I was exposed to the idea of fine dining and culinary arts through the team at Pachamamas in Lawrence. Chef and owner Ken Baker provided a workplace that has incubated some of the best chefs in the Lawrence and Kansas City area. Later in St. Louis, I was hired to work front of the house at Cafe Osage at Bowood Farms. It was here under the mentorship of Chef David Kirkland that I really immersed myself in our slow foods movement and farm-to-table programming. On the campus of Cafe Osage, we had a city lot garden that kept our cafe sourced onsite.”

Restaurant resume: Pachamamas, Lawrence; Tony’s, St. Louis; Cafe Osage at Bowood Farms, St. Louis

How did you become interested in cooking? “I grew up in my dad’s kitchen at the Brickyard. I graduated in 2007 from Washington University in St. Louis. During the housing crisis, full-time employment in my field and opportunities to utilize my degree were really not available. I continued to teach and work in restaurants part time. When I decided to change career paths, we were presented with the opportunity to open a project alongside our family’s existing business. I knew I wanted to spend time with my family and be closer to home, putting our combined efforts together to create a new restaurant.”

What makes Wichita a special place for dining? “I would say that it’s a combination of location and diverse backgrounds. We are located in the heartland with the opportunities to be around the culture of those that grow food for a living. In addition, we have a diverse influence from Laos, Vietnamese, Lebanese and Mexican cuisine. Also, due to our landlocked geography, we seem to celebrate dining out as entertainment in lieu of other activities that the mountain and coastal regions offer. Here it is really a focus on knowing the history of restaurants and acting in patronage for the places that are loved as generational institutions and having an adventurous spirit to try new concepts and programs as they enter the market.”

One thing you’d like to change about Wichita’s restaurant scene: “I would like the scene to become more inclusive to young chefs, women and chefs of color. I think this is the way to attract talent to the region or to keep and entice homegrown talent to stay or return to Wichita. I really think this comes with educating patrons. There are a lot of options to dine out in the city, and a lot of great artisanal makers, CSAs, etc., but there is little in the way of mainstream support for places that can’t utilize marketing and advertising to their advantage.”

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: “I enjoy many spots. College Hill Deli (3407 E. Douglas). Little Saigon (1015 N. Broadway) is a family favorite. Himali Eats (3238 E. Douglas) and Taco Locale (2721 E. Central, Suite 109) are close by and great. And when I can get time off, I love to dine at Elderslie Farm.”

Your philosophy on your job: “We like to take our cues from ingredients. We rely on our relationships with growers to start with ingredients as origin of a concept over technique, when possible. We feel that sourcing from a network of local producers is paramount to our culinary agenda. Our staff works hard to continuously refine their abilities, and they push me to keep up with the learning curve and to be better every day.”

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Carlos Vera is owner of Taco Locale. (Oct. 5, 2021) Jaime Green The Wichita Eagle

Carlos Vera

Job: Founder, Taco Locale, 2721 E. Central, Suite 109

Hometown: Brownsville, Texas

Age: 30

Training: Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Austin, Texas

Restaurant resume: Chef at Biga on the Banks, Silo and La Gloria, all in San Antonio; sous chef at YaYa’s, Wichita; executive chef at 37 West, Koch Industries, and at Taco Locale

How did you become interested in cooking? “I grew up cooking with my mom and always gravitated to the fire. Growing up, I was always the one cooking for my friends and eventually cooking at their family parties and barbecues. After high school, I decided that the culinary industry was something I wanted to get to know better, and I enrolled in culinary school. I packed my bag, headed north to Austin, and the rest is history.”

What makes Wichita a special place for dining? “I think Wichita is a place full of young people looking for the next big thing, and that is a great asset for us chefs who are trying to introduce new ideas and new philosophies.”

One thing you’d like to change about Wichita’s restaurant scene: “I think the biggest thing to change is the customer/guest needs to have an openness about trying new things. And work on building trust with us chefs, letting us guide them through new flavors and experiences. One thing that you can count on is that we will always do everything that we can to make sure that we make things right for our guest and that if there’s any shortcomings or mistakes on our end, we will do everything we can to exceed or meet your expectations. Secondly and not any less important, business owners who employ us and other industry talents MUST trust us to look out for their best interest just as much as we are looking for them to watch over ours.”

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: “Love Public. Love Brooke and Travis Russell. Great people, great business and great food. Beautiful family. I am always inspired by those I see grind away and succeed in circumstances that would make others curl up.”

Your philosophy on your job: “Work harder than the rest. Play harder than the rest. This is something that I have always struggled with. I have been your classic case of work hard and don’t play around. But after a decade of the grind, I’ve found myself blessed with time to spend with family and friends as well as pursuing my other passion: hot rodding.”

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Cedrick Thavone is executive chef at Georges French Bistro. (Oct. 5, 2021) Jaime Green The Wichita Eagle

Cedrick Thavone

Job: Executive chef at Georges French Bistro, 4816 E. Central

Age: 34

Hometown: Born in Las Vegas, raised in Wichita

Training: Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Scottsdale, Arizona

Restaurant resume: Line cook at Phoenician, Phoenix, under Chef Lee Hillson; sous chef under Chef Justin Pfeilsticker at Trader Vic’s at the Hotel Valley Ho , Scottsdale; chef at Kanai, Wichita; chef at Chester’s Chophouse, Wichita, under Bobby Lane and Abel Rodriguez

How did you become interested in cooking for a living? “I’ve always been surrounded by great cooks: grandma, mom, aunties, uncles. It’s a part of my culture. Through my family, it is an easy way to bring us together and eat, cook and bullsh*t together. Now that’s my task: to share and open the world’s eyes through food so we can all bullsh*t together.”

What makes Wichita a special place for dining? “The passionate men and women that chose the hospitality industry as a profession. To wake up every day knowing you can’t please everyone but to still smile and be happy about what you put out. That’s special!”

One thing you’d like to change about Wichita’s restaurant scene: “For guests with specific dietary situations to at least call ahead. I have no personal issues in the manner. I welcome it with open arms if it’s on the spot! Challenge accepted! But a call ahead would be nice.”

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: “Kobe’s Steakhouse (8760 W. 21st St), Freddy’s (various locations), Asian Bistro (1520 S. Webb, No. 180), Pho Le (6540 E. Central), Thai House (969 N. West St.), and Chiang Mai (3141 S. Hillside), just to name a few.”

Your philosophy on your job: “To lead by example, to share my knowledge, to show what it means to stay humble, to teach vulnerability, to fight fear and self doubt. Just cook!”

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Los Angeles-born Kayson Chong owns his own Wichita restaurant, Jumbo’s Beef & Brew. Aaron Patton VIP Magazine

Kayson Chong

Job: Founder, Jumbo’s Beef & Brew, 3750 N. Woodlawn

Age: 43

Hometown: Los Angeles

Training: California Culinary Academy, San Francisco

Restaurant resume: Postrio at Prescott Hotel, San Francisco; Michael Mina at Union Square, San Francisco; Picasso at Bellagio, Las Vegas; BOA Steakhouse, Los Angeles; BLT Steak and BLT Burger, Los Angeles; Rockenwagner Bakery & Cafe, Santa Monica/Venice/Los Angeles; Mainland Poke Shop, Beverly Hills/Glendale/Marina Del Rey, California; Houston Hospitality Group, Hollywood.

How did you become interested in cooking for a living? “Was always good with my hands, building computers in the ’80s and ’90’s and could take a car apart and back together in no time. Growing up in a Korean household, the kitchen would produce many flavors and smells that really fascinated me. The things that a person’s hands could put together to make amazing tasting food was also a wonder as a child. Right around my college years, I was making good food for barbecues and friends and family events and thought I could become somewhat of a good cook if I really took the time to study it. I decided to go to culinary school, and wielding the knife and using the kitchen equipment came with ease. I graduated from the California Culinary Academy and was accepted at a premiere Wolfgang Puck Restaurant right out of culinary school. While working on the West Coast for many world renowned chefs, I found a love for the industry and wanted to be part of the growing culinary scene.”

One thing you’d like to change about Wichita’s restaurant scene: “I want Wichitans to try new things and explore out of their comfort zone. Big corporate restaurants are not good or good for you. The drive-throughs are ridiculous in Wichita. Eat local. Eat healthy. Eat fresh. Explore. Stop thinking cheaper and quick is better.”

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: El Pollo Dorado al Carbon, 128 W. 21st St.

Your philosophy on your job: “Stay focused on providing good service and optimal flavors to guests new and old.”

This story was originally published October 31, 2021 4:55 AM.

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Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.


https://www.kansas.com/entertainment/restaurants/dining-with-denise-neil/article255256341.html