A nationally known New York chef's Latino restaurant is the latest commitment to Jay Maxwell's planned mixed-use commercial project at Kellogg and Maize Road.
Aaron Sanchez, the co-star of the Food Network's new series Chefs vs. City, said this week that he plans to open a Mexican niche restaurant in the west-side development.
"The best way to describe what we want to do is a contemporary twist on Mexican classics, with an entertainment flavor," said Sanchez, who is the owner and executive chef of restaurants Paladar and Centrico, both in New York City.
Sanchez's restaurant is the second business to commit to the development, which is seeking $13 million in STAR bonds from the Kansas Department of Commerce.
It will join a loft-style hotel by Nylo Hotels of Atlanta, once funding is finalized.
The STAR bond request goes before the Wichita City Council on Tuesday for endorsement before going to the Kansas Department of Commerce for action.
STAR bonds let local governments use future sales tax revenue to pay current redevelopment costs. Maxwell's project proposal does not include any local tax incentives.
Sanchez said there will be a little bit of everything in his yet-unnamed restaurant: A tortilla station in the dining area making fresh tortillas, a big tequila bar and "tequila cellar," a dining-room stand preparing fresh vegetables, a retail area selling Sanchez's personal spice blends and homemade salsas, and an outdoor patio.
"I see the bar as the focal point of the restaurant," Sanchez said, "a place where a lot of energy happens.
"I want to use the outdoor patio space for a lot of fun, to bring attention to the restaurant. We'll have a big Mexican grill, and we'll do big outdoor functions, a kind of gathering place."
Sanchez was recruited to the $95 million development by one of Maxwell's equity partners, Michael Auger of Trifecta Management, a restaurant and entertainment development group based in Agoura Hills, Calif.
"They've been very key to the project," Maxwell said. "I never would have landed Aaron Sanchez without Mike tying down Aaron's rights to put him in cities and make financial deals."
Maxwell and Auger said they want to use Wichita as a test market for their entertainment concept, which will be anchored here by a bowling training and entertainment facility dubbed Bowllagio.
That broader entertainment mission is what attracted Sanchez.
"I think that when you're able to combine all the best elements of entertainment, from the hotel and the hospitality end to the entertainment to our restaurant, I think you've created something that will be unique and something that will be around for a long time," Sanchez said.
Sanchez is the son of noted Mexican cooking authority Zarela Martinez, according to his biography.
He began his Food Network Career as the co-host of Melting Pot. Today, he stars on multiple Food Network shows including Chefs vs. City, Chopped, Best Thing I Ever Ate, Next Iron Chef and others.