Febres commits a Celeb & Chef Cookoff three-peat

Tanya Tandoc, right, announces Taste & See's Jason Febres the winner of the cookoff.

As I stated earlier, the Celebrity & Chef Cookoff, a benefit for the Orpheum that happens each summer at the Corporate Hills Marriott, is one of the must fun fundraisers put on in Wichita.

I was a judge for last night’s event, along with Chef Tanya Tandoc and Beth Bower of the American Institute of Wine and Food, and our job was hard. We had to taste the dishes come up with on the spot in 45 minutes by eight teams of local chefs paired with well-known Wichitans, who worked as their sous chefs.

The experiment Febres conducted in these test tubes was a total success.

Though we didn’t want to be predictable, the dish prepared by Taste & See’s Chef Jason Febres was definitely the best. He’s already won the past two years, so we tried everything we could think of to talk ourselves out of giving him the title again. But we couldn’t. He created a four-course tasting that included a fried egg/scallop/bacon combo and a test tube gazpacho shooter. His flavors were all clean and fabulous.

We also loved the dishes prepared by The Petroleum Club’s Jake Lippincott, who along with partner Kelly Uran of Bank of the West, made a delectable salmon and scallop duo. And the dish by Kevin Derks of Newport Grill included some amazing fried potato and brussels sprouts shavings that I’d love to eat again. His partner was Splurge magazine publisher Jody Klein.

The event also included plentiful samples of dishes from restaurants all over Wichita, including Lotus Leaf Cafe & , The Anchor, Cero’s, Two Brothers BBQ and more.

Here are a few pictures from the event.

Congressman Mike Pompeo, right, was paired with Marshall Roth, the executive chef of Treat America at Beech Activity Center.

Splurge magazine publisher Jody Klein, right, and her partner chef, Kevin Derks of Newport Grill, prepared another of our favorite dishes.

The judges: Tanya Tandoc, Beth Bower and me.

Bocconcini's chef Nathan Toubia with his partner, the WSU Foundation's Elizabeth King. The duo prepared a homemade ravioli.

Event emcees Dick Honeyman and his wife Bonnie Bing.

The Petroleum Club's Jake Lippincott, with his partner Kelly Uran, made a delicious salmon/scallop duo.

Tallgrass Country Club chef Ben George.

Lotus Leaf losing crepes, adding chef

By March 20, Lotus Leaf Cafe & Creperie at  613 W. Douglas, will become just Lotus Leaf Cafe.

Owner Jacquelyn Keefer, who has been struggling for a while to find a way to make her restaurant fit her original vision, said she has hired a new chef — kitchen veteran Rebecca Gold — and will likely soon drop crepes from the restaurant’s menu and name.

When Lotus Leaf turned 1 in November, Keefer announced that she’d hired a new chef, Ya Ya’s and Uptown Bistro veteran Beau Franklin. But that partnership didn’t work out, Keefer said. She wanted to find a chef who would be on board with her vision of healthy food with natural ingredients, and she thinks she’s found it in Gold.

Rebecca Gold, back in her Uptown Bistro pastry chef days.

Gold, who has worked at Uptown Bistro, Cero’s and Chester’s Chophouse, starts on Monday.

“She has more of an idea of what I really wanted from the beginning,” Keefer said. “I’m tired of conforming to chefs’ ideas of what healthy options are.”

Keefer and Gold have agreed that crepes will no longer be a focus on the menu, though it’s possible that a crepe or two will be on the new menu that they’ll debut on March 20. It’ll feature more salads, more soups and more menu items made with ingredients such as quinoa and cous cous.

“I’m really looking forward to having a woman in the kitchen,” Keefer said.

Until then, the current menu will remain in place, she said, though Gold will likely add her own touches.

Lotus Leaf turns 1, hires new chef

Lotus Leaf, the little creperie and healthy eating spot at 613 W. Douglas in Delano, turned 1 on Nov. 22. Around that same time, owner Jacquelyn Keefer hired a new executive chef. James Butler is gone, and in his place is Beau Franklin, a veteran of several Wichita kitchens, including Ya Ya’s, Oeno, Uptown Bistro and Sabor.

The two are working on additions to the menu, which is now a mix of crepes, salads and sandwiches. Within the next two weeks, they plan to add several dishes, including a Thai peanut curry bowl, a spicy turkey meatball crepe and a veggie burger on a vegan bun.

They’re also working on a little first birthday party. It’ll be staged from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday to coincide with the Christmas in Delano event, which will include a 5 p.m. clocktower lighting. During that time, Lotus Leaf will serve free carrot cake and appetizers to those who stop in.

For more information, call 316-295-4133.

Lotus Leaf closes during improvements

Lotus Leaf Cafe & Creperie at 613 W. Douglas is closed until Wednesday as its owner Jacquelyn Keefer works on putting together a new kitchen that will allow her to get food out faster.

During its first months of business, the restaurant’s executive chef James Butler has been creating dishes on a regular four-burner kitchen stove. But when the restaurant reopens on Wednesday, it’ll have a six-burner gas range as well as other kitchen improvements.

For more information, call 316-295-4133.

Making “good for you” taste good

A tarragon chicken crepe from Lotus Leaf. Yum.

There was a reason I asked you all yesterday to name your  favorite healthy-eating restaurants in Wichita: My story for this week’s Go! section is about local restaurants that make healthy food taste good. (No small feat for the Kansas palate.)

You can read the story online here right now, unless you really prefer the delayed gratification of a Friday morning newspaper read.

My story focuses on two new-to-the-scene restaurants: Lotus Leaf Cafe & Creperie in Delano and Wild Thyme Cafe and Bakery on north Maize Road.

First impression: Lotus Leaf Cafe & Creperie

Owner Jacquelyn Keefer and chef James Butler.

I’d been meaning for weeks to try out the new Lotus Leaf Cafe & Creperie that opened a month ago in the space at 613 W. Douglas in Delano formerly occupied by The Palette.

Today, I met my friend and food goddess Tanya Tandoc there for lunch, and we had a great time and a great meal.

I ordered some chicken tarragon crepes, and Tanya had a crepe Florentine. We finished the meal with a banana-nutella crepe, one of my all-time favorite treats.

Tarragon chicken crepe at Lotus Leaf.

The food was good. Chef James Butler, under the direction of owner Jacquelyn Keefer, makes the food using healthier ingredients. And the space is warm and cozy.

Coincidentally, sisters Connie Dirks and Linda Grafton, former owners of the Palette, were there dining today, too.

Lotus Leaf also serves sandwiches and homemade soups and serves a dinner menu, with dishes such as tandoori chicken.

I’ll definitely go back.