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Every Community Has One of These… under-appreciated chef!  You know the one, the chef that's cranking out some out-of-this-world meals, but flies under the radar...often due to his or her humble character.  They contribute significantly to the continued evolution of our food culture, but do so quietly and out of the spotlight.

Typically these chefs are found in local, sometimes undiscovered, gems.  Hopefully, you are able to search out these local treasures in your community!  They are sometimes in the most unexpected places, and can offer the most amazing meal experiences -- in quality, variety and flavor!

Paul Freimuth Profile Picture_01In Wichita, one of our truly under-appreciated chefs is "Chef Paul!"  Chef Paul Freimuth is in one of those unexpected places...he is the Executive Chef at Harvest Kitchen at the Hyatt Regency Wichita, where he and his team prepare some absolutely incredible farm-to-table meals!

Over his 23 years with the Hyatt, Chef Paul has prepared meals for a long list of celebrities...just some of the names include John Travolta, George W. Bush (and father), Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Graham Nash, Peter Frampton, Dick Clark and the list goes on.  But, trust me, it took some work to get Chef Paul to share these names...I should say reluctantly share these names!  Chef Paul is one of the most down-to-earth people you will EVER meet!  When you talk to him, what really gets him excited is when he shares stories about how his more common customers stop him and ask "Chef Paul, how in the world did you make that?" after they experience the unbelievable taste of one of his many creations.

We recently had lunch with Chef Paul and asked him some questions to help you get to know this talented chef...and genuinely great person...a little better.


How did you become a chef?

It all started at my home in Pittsburgh.  When I was five, I used to cook scrambled eggs with my mom.  I was fascinated and loved it.  I branched out to pancakes and french toast and it just kept going.

If you weren't a chef, what would you be doing?

Believe it or not, I would want to be a major league baseball umpire.  {Eat REAL America comment:  Chef Paul is a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan, so they would probably have to ban him from umping any Pirates games!}  

What does success mean for you?

Success to me is happy customers, who enjoy meals that are fresh, on-time and delicious!  Our entire team makes this happen.  I always say "Other mothers have smart children too!"  We have a very talented team and "I am mainly the motivator"...a lot of what I do is provide motivation to help the team perform at its best.

What quirks does your team tease you about?

They give me a hard time about being anal-retentive on certain things.  When it comes to things like scheduling, payroll and planning, we can't mess those things up.  There is a saying a friend of mine shared many years ago that has always stuck with has to do with the 7 P's of Life (Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance).  I find this is true in many areas of life, but especially in the kitchen.

IMG_1777What is your philosophy on food?

I whole-heartedly agree with the Hyatt's philosophy on food..."thoughtfully sourced, carefully served."  I also believe we should never lose our roots to cook REAL food.  I have had situations where we have a big event coming up and a chef will ask "can't we just go buy that prepared instead of making it from scratch?"  My response is always the same...that is not staying true to our roots and cooking REAL food.  As hard as that can be sometimes, it is very important.

What do you consider when putting together your menus?

The seasons!  My menus are influenced by the seasons.  I like to use in-season ingredients...and local ingredients whenever possible.  Right now, of course, we are using a lot of local tomatoes, corn, potatoes, melons and other produce.  We have been planning for some of our Fall events to use ingredients that will be in-season soon -- we just put a butternut squash barley risotto in the line-up for an event coming up in the next few weeks!

We also put a lot of thought into the menus for events here at the hotel.  A local company just celebrated its anniversary and everything on the menu had Kansas roots.  People really notice and appreciate it when we put some real thought into the menu.  I also like to get people to try things they haven't tried before.  We had a customer try a jicama dish we were serving.  He said "that was fantastic, what was it?"  When I told him, he said "I would have never tried that if I hadn't come to your restaurant."

IMG_1774Where do you get your ingredients?

We have relationships with many local farmers and producers and buy local ingredients whenever possible.  Much of our produce is local...heirloom tomatoes, greens, squash, cucumbers, fennel, microgreens, herbs, melons, blueberries and much, much more.  We get a lot of our meats and cheeses locally, as well as breads, sauces, nuts, spices and the list goes on.  It is amazing how much you can get locally with a little effort and some good relationships.  We focus a lot on high-quality ingredients and preparing food from scratch.  For example, our bacon is nitrate-free.  We also make our own yogurt and granola.  It would be easy to buy yogurt and granola that is already prepared, but the quality just wouldn't be the same for our customers.

IMG_1778Where do you find your inspiration?

I am inspired by local vendors and sharing ideas with other talented chefs I have worked with over the years.  I don't need a trip to Italy to be inspired when we have some outstanding inspiration right here at home.  We were working on a short-rib dish the other day and it just wasn't coming together the way we wanted.  About that time, one of our local farmers was making a delivery and I noticed a basket of red-skinned potatoes.  I said "that's it!"  We can scoop out the insides of the potatoes, stuff them with the braised short-ribs and incorporate some local cheese and barbecue sauce.  It turned out amazing...and the entire dish was made up of fresh, local ingredients!

Some of our best dishes happen by accident or by experiment.  I was recently making a blueberry sorbet for a group dinner (using local blueberries of course).  The mixing bowl I normally use was being washed.  When I pulled it out, it was super-hot, which isn't good for making sorbet.  I took some liquid nitrogen to cool down the bowl and the bowl ended up completely frosted.  When we made the sorbet, it froze different and faster than normal.  When I tasted it, I thought "you have got to be kidding me."  After serving it to the guests (and some extras to the staff), several people said "Chef, that sorbet was absolutely incredible!"  Those discoveries are part of what I love about being a chef.  {Eat REAL America comment: Chef Paul brought out samples of the blueberry sorbet after argument here -- it was so delicious!}   

What is one of your favorite stories as a chef?

There are so many!  In 1996, I was helping with the Greater Milwaukee Open golf tournament.  I ran into Paul Azinger, who was incognito in the elevator, and he said "Hey, didn't you make my omelette this morning?"  Fortunately, he loved it!  Interestingly, Tiger Woods hit his first professional hole-in-one at that tournament and it just so happens that he had one of our ham and cheese omelettes that morning!

When you go out to eat, where do you like to go?

We don't eat out very often, but a couple of my favorites are Fork & Fennel and MannaWok.  MannaWok is a small simple restaurant, but the food is spectacular!  {Eat REAL America comment: these are a couple of great choices in Wichita...if you ever go to MannaWok, the Bi Bim Bop will blow your mind!}

The Takeaways...

We are so thankful to Chef Paul for letting us share this with our members.  Here are a few things to think about...

  1. Who is the most under-appreciated chef in your community?  Is there a local gem where he or she may be hiding?  Give her or him a visit and let them know how much you appreciate what they do!
  2. Don't be selfish!  Tell us about your under-appreciated chef, so we can help spread the word!
  3. If you are ever in Wichita, make it a point to stop by Harvest Kitchen and meet Chef Paul and enjoy one of his extraordinary meals!


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