Of course Jason-Paul Febres’ restaurant, Taste & See, features an open kitchen. Did you expect him to be stuck cooking in back, where no one can see him? Febres — the photogenic, charming and slightly cocky chef who burst onto Wichita’s dining scene seven years ago — has always imagined himself as a TV chef. And now he is.
Earlier this year, he flew to California to film an episode of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue,” a reality show in which a panel of experts tries to help a struggling bar. Febres was the food guru. His reaction to appearing on national TV: It’s about time.
“It was more like ‘Finally, I got here!’ than ‘Wow, they picked me,’” said Febres, who grew up in Venezuela.
Don’t get turned off by Febres’ confidence, which is just part of his personality. He’s also funny, self-deprecating, a loving son and conscientious mentor whose habit of saying whatever pops into his head seems to make him a natural for more TV roles (and a reporter’s dream interview).
And oh yeah, he’s a heckuva cook. It’s no surprise that Febres has been a regular winner of local Iron Chef competitions. Or that his restaurant and catering business has managed to take hold in an unconventional setting — the old Wichita Mall on Harry, now an office and conference space.
Here are just a few favorites from the Taste & See menu: Tequenos, which are small bricks of panela cheese baked inside puff pastry; the black bean hummus served with plantain chips; the fish tacos; the cubano sandwich, with slow roasted adobo pork, smoked ham, Emmental cheese and more; and the Pepito, a vast assemblage of steak, sauteed mushrooms, onions, peppers, cheese and shoestring potato fries serve on a hoagie that can’t possibly close around it.
“It’s a fun sandwich to see how customers approach it,” Febres says with a grin, as several nearby customers decide a knife and fork is the best option.