Watch and learn... then eat
Taste & See Everyday Gourmet lets the customers see how the chef fixes the food.BY DENISE NEIL
The Wichita Eagle
They deal with food that can be tasted and seen. And Chef Jason-Paul Febres poses in the business's stylish and very visible ad campaign.
Beyond that, many Wichitans are unsure about what exactly Taste & See Everyday Gourmet, a 3-month-old business set up in the Office This complex at 3825 E. Harry, is really all about.
Taste & See was the brainchild of Christine Bacci, director of operations for Bethel House, and her mother, Darlene Finley.
Bacci had noticed that some of the home health nurses who worked for Bethel House lacked basic cooking skills. The duo decided they could teach the nurses and other interested people in town a few kitchen tricks.
They remodeled a 1,700-square-foot space that once housed Montgomery Ward, adding a huge, state-of-the-art gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, commercial appliances and an audio/video system that allows a chef to put on a show.
Enter Febres, a Wichita chef known for his Latin charisma — and for being a restaurant transient. He started Sabor restaurant with Melad Stephan in 2007 and went on to help open the east-side Sabor. Over the past several years, he's quit Sabor, rejoined Sabor, then quit again to join fellow chef Roni Attari in opening Yuca Latin Bistro at Central and Tyler. When that partnership fell apart just before opening, Febres cooked at a few other local restaurants, always plotting ways to open his own.
Meanwhile, Bacci and her family, including her sister and her husband, businessman Steven Bacci, decided that their new business had more culinary potential than they'd originally thought. They interviewed about a dozen chefs, looking for one who offered the perfect blend of cooking skills and Food Network-style performance ability.
Febres won the job.
"He was personality plus," Bacci said. "He was a star. He was it."
As executive chef and part owner, Febres has helped Taste & See become a restaurant of sorts, available for private parties.
Taste & See's menu of offerings includes Restaurant Night Live on Saturdays — a reservation-only meal prepared by Febres, who works and converses as diners watch.
"It's like a cooking show with a lot of interactivity," Febres said.
On weeknights, Febres leads cooking classes in the space. Earlier this week, he taught a popular sushi-making class, and he'll also have a cooking basics class and a couples date night class, in which one member of the couple helps Febres prepare a meal for the other.
Taste & See's most popular use, though, is as a venue for private events. People can rent the space for weddings, birthday parties, office parties, etc., and have Febres and his crew cater the meal. (Taste & See also does off-site catering.)
Next month, Febres will begin offering lunch in the space. His menu will include gourmet salads, sandwiches and more. Taste & See should have its liquor license soon, and once it does, Febres also plans to offer wine dinners.
The goal for Taste & See is to offer Wichitans an interactive dining experience, he said.
Febres' goal remains the same: To eventually open a restaurant, partnering with the Baccis. The trio have their eye on a space, Christine Bacci said, and as soon as it's available, they'll move.
But for now, Febres says he's enjoying having the freedom to call the shots and put on a show.
"I enjoy performing and talking to people," he said. "I'm exactly where I want to be right now."
If you go
Taste & See Everyday Gourmet
What: A business offering interactive restaurant meals, cooking classes, private parties and catering.
Where: 3825 E. Harry, 316-771-7393
Schedule: Find Taste & See's class and dining schedule online at www.tasteandseecooking.com.
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