A pinch of salt

YaYa's brings new chef, flavor to Wichita

Written by Amy Bird | Photography by Visual Fusion Photographics

Long a culinary standard in Wichita, YaYa’s Eurobistro is once again proving its place among Wichita’s best places to dine with a new menu out this fall. Executive Chef Fernando Ferreira, who moved to Wichita in May from Raleigh, N.C., spent the summer learning local tastes and intro- ducing new creations to find out what entrees diners enjoy the most.

Now, he’s ready to unveil an elevated menu that reflects his Italian heritage, South American roots and experiences cooking for premier restaurants in Memphis, New Orleans, Miami and Raleigh.

Patrons will discover a variety of Ferreira’s signature dishes offered daily, along with fresh takes on YaYa’s house favorites.

Ferreira says his guiding principle is to keep his creations fresh and simple.

“If I can’t read a menu, then normal people can’t,” he says of his efforts to avoid a mistake often made by restaurants with complex menus.

“When fresh ingredients are used in creative ways,” Ferreira continues, “flavors come out naturally.”

“You don’t need lots of spices when you use fresh herbs, vegetables and premium ingredients,” he enthuses, saying he primarily uses salt and garlic to enhance the flavor of the entrees he creates.

Ferreira says his minimalist approach is based on lessons he first learned from his mother and grandmother. Although his Italian ancestors moved to South America during World War II, they never lost their taste for Italian cooking.

“Every Sunday my mother and grandmother would make big pasta dinners,” he says of his earliest memories in the kitchen. In Uruguay, where he was born, and later in Venezuela, Ferreira also learned the fine nuances of grilling meat from his father.

It was only natural, then, that by the time Ferreira was of age for a part-time job, he became butcher’s apprentice working in a local grocery store, which later opened doors in the restaurant industry.

Ferreira eventually moved to Puerto Rico with his family and went to high school and college there. It was during this time that he decided to pursue business and hotel administration, which in turn, led him back to his passion for food. Following his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., he started his career as a chef in the United States.

For more than 30 years, he has been developing his own unique approach to the culinary arts, with an infusion of flavors and techniques from every place he has lived or traveled.

“I love to travel and try new things – to see the way they should be and to create your own taste by knowing ingredients and textures,” he says, noting that to really experience a place you have to eat what the locals eat, where the locals eat, which is one reason he says he’s excited about YaYa’s.

“This is where locals eat,” he says. “They appreciate good quality.”

He lauds this appreciation and the freedom it gives him to do what he does best.

“I keep it fresh and simple and cook with respect and love,” he says. “You can taste the difference of how much love goes into it.”

Q&A with Fernando Ferreira

1. WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS FOR YAYA’S?

To focus on offering unique customized catering for weddings and corporate affairs. I enjoy the creative process of meeting with a client and exceeding their expectations.

2. WHAT IS YOUR SIGNATURE DISH?

White truffle risotto

3. WHO COOKS MORE AT HOME, YOU OR YOUR WIFE?

My wife!

4. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE INGREDIENTS?

Salt, garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil

5. WHAT IS YOUR GUILTIEST FOOD PLEASURE?

Chocolate and a good espresso

6. WHAT ARE THE THREE WORDS THAT BEST DESCRIBE YOUR COOKING?

Truthful, passionate, delicious

7. WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT BEING A CHEF?

When I see my customers’ faces and how they enjoy my food. It’s amazing!

8. FAVORITE HOBBY?

Travel, photography and scuba diving

9. DREAM FOODIE VACATION?

Greece

10. BEST WICHITA DISCOVERY?

Aldi carries my favorite Cuban coffee – Café Bustelo!

 
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