Gaslamp Grille chef prepares "food forward" menu

Story by Joe Stumpe

John Conklin is out to shake up Wichita's dining scene.

Think fennel-seared duck with a caramelized orange and rosemary risotto, braised osso bucco with a sweet carrot and radish micro green salad, and 12-spice ribs topped with banana barbecue sauce.

Those are three of the dishes that Conklin, chef at the Gaslamp Grille on Rock Road, is rolling out this fall.

What we're trying to do is a little more food forward thinking, Conklin said. We do a lot of classic dishes. We just do them in a different way.

John Conklin is out to shake up Wichita's dining scene.  Jeff Cody

Conklin is an interesting character  a 32-year-old with a northern accent and multiple tattoos who grew up on his grandparents risotto and reruns of Julia Child.

He started dish dogging (washing dishes) in a restaurant when he was 12 years old.

He spent eight years working for Minneapolis chef Michael McKay  He's my master, Conklin says  before hitting the road to learn specific skills at various restaurants.

Returning to Minneapolis, Conklin ran his own restaurant for two years. Then, like quite a few other people over the last couple of years, he said, I lost everything.

Conklin moved to the Lindsborg area with his wife, who had family in Kansas. His marriage broke up but Conklin never considered leaving the state.

I'm a father first, a chef second, he said. I'm not leaving my kids.

Conklin did a stint at Yia Yia's before being hired at the Gaslamp by Whitney VinZant and Corey Gonzalez. Those two, Conklin said, have put a lot of trust in me to produce creative food that still connects with Wichitans tastes.

Basically we're just giving people, along with the food, something they've never tried,  Kristina Parsons

Conklin works closely with Gaslamp general manager Kristina Parsons to make sure the restaurant's wine list reflects the same kind of forward thinking. One feature that Gaslamp offers is wine by the glass from smaller boutique wineries, so that customers can sample different varieties and labels without investing in an entire bottle.

Basically we're just giving people, along with the food, something they've never tried, Parsons said. Everybody's had a pinot, but maybe they've never had a pinot from Patagonia.


The Gaslamp Grille patio features a D.J. and 2-for-1 drinks in a club atmosphere from 10 p.m. to close on Thursdays, plus live music in the lounge on Friday and Saturday nights.

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