Meet Travis Russell, Chef / Owner of Public in Wichita

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Changing of the guard

Wichita’s new generation of chefs are young, passionate, and serious, and they place more emphasis on sustainability and creativity than their predecessors could.

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Wichita’s “new guard” of chefs are passionate young men and women who are local celebrities.

For her, eating is an art, a passion and a profession, not just a job. They are not competitors, they are colleagues. They are pumped over local vegetables. You are friends with local farmers. And they are taking Wichita on a new culinary course. Read more about Travis Russell below; Read more about the new guard here.

Travis Russell

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

Age: 41

Hometown: Wichita

Education: “At work. I’ve always worked in restaurants while getting a college degree in fine arts. First in Lawrence and then in St. Louis. It was through the Pachamamas team in Lawrence that I was introduced to the idea of ​​fine dining and the Chef and owner Ken Baker created a workplace that has produced some of the best chefs in the Lawrence and Kansas City area, and later in St. Louis, I was hired to work outside the home at Cafe Osage on Bowood Farms Here, under the guidance of Chef David Kirkland, I really immersed myself in our slow food movement and our farm-to-table program. On the Cafe Osage campus, we had a city garden that procured our on-site café. “

Restaurant CV: Pachamamas, Lawrence; Tonys, St. Louis; Cafe Osage at Bowood Farms, St. Louis

How did you get into cooking? “I grew up in my father’s kitchen in the brick factory. I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007. During the housing crisis, full-time employment in my area and opportunities to use my studies were really not available. I went on to teach and work part-time in restaurants. When I decided to change my career path, we had the opportunity to open a project alongside our family’s existing company. I knew I wanted to spend time with my family and be closer to home, so that we could pool our joint efforts to create a new restaurant. “

What Makes Wichita a Special Place to Eat? “I would say it’s a combination of location and different backgrounds. We are inland and have the opportunity to experience the culture of those who grow food for a living. In addition, we have diverse influences from Laotian, Vietnamese, Lebanese and Mexican cuisine. Due to our inland geography, we seem to celebrate food as entertainment rather than other activities that the mountain and coastal regions offer. A real focus here is knowing the history of the restaurants and patronizing the places loved as intergenerational institutions and having the spirit of adventure to try out new concepts and programs as they hit the market. “

One thing you want to change about the Wichita dining scene: “I want the scene for young cooks, women and cooks of color to be more inclusive. I think this is the way to attract talent to the area or to keep local talent and attract them to return or stay in Wichita. I really think this has to do with educating patrons. There are plenty of places to eat in town, and lots of great artisans, CSAs, etc, but there’s little mainstream support for places that marketing and advertising can’t use to their advantage. ”

Favorite Wichita restaurant besides your own: “I enjoy a lot of 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 are great. And when I’m free, I like to eat at Elderslie Farm. “

Your philosophy at work: “We like to orientate ourselves on the ingredients. We rely on our grower relationships to start with the ingredients as the origin of a concept and, if possible, before the technique. We believe sourcing from a network of local producers is paramount to our culinary agenda. Our people work hard to continuously hone their skills and they urge me to keep up with the learning curve and get better every day. “

This story was originally published October 31, 2021 12:00 p.m.

Denise Neil has been reporting on dining and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is where guests can find information about local restaurants. She regularly judges local food competitions and talks about food to groups across Wichita.

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