Secrets In the Kitchen: What A Few Top Chefs Have to Say - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Secrets In the Kitchen: What A Few Top Chefs Have to Say

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By: Sabrina Ahmed

Hundreds of restaurants have popped up in Des Moines in the last five years, so what do you have to do to come out on top?

Whether listening to jazz music at Table 128, or watching the chefs in action at Flying Mango, each owner gives his own version of what it means to make a restaurant an extension of their home.

"Kind of that cheers effect, where you want to go and have people know your name," Lynn Pritchard said.

"We're invited to weddings and super bowl parties, it's kind of morphed into a very large family for a large percentage of our clients," Mike Wedeking said.

Where these two owners learned the trade, and how they ended up here in the metro, couldn't be more different.

Lynn Pritchard at Table 128 in West Des Moines went to culinary school in New York City, worked in restaurants, knew his passion was food.  And he loved Manhattan, but then he hit a wall.

"I had about $2.13 to my name, and I couldn't stay on the island anymore," Pritchard said.

He moved back to the Midwest, and while working at another restaurant met his wife, Sarah.  Together they decided to take a leap and open their own business.

"It just felt right," Pritchard said.  "What Sarah and I really wanted was something that was very congruent and very much who and what we were."

Mike Wedeking at Flying Mango is a little less conventional. He didn't grow up with gourmet food on the table every night.

"We dined on the same five or six things, and that's the way my dad liked it.  I knew what day of the week it was because of what we were having for dinner," Wedeking said.

He taught himself everything he knows.

"I started doing things with indirect heat on a Weber grill basically back in the high school years," he recalled.

He slowly gained a client base through catering, then decided to pull the trigger.

"In a weak moment decided to open a restaurant and the rest is kind of history," Wedeking said.

Comparing menus, you might notice the two restaurants aren't very similar in that regard, either.  Wedeking lives by a very simple motto.

"The food is all on the menu because I like to eat it.  There is no salmon, there are no hamburgers, and nothing is fried," Wedeking said.

And has the help of Chef Kira Haumersen in keeping the kitchen running smoothly.

"We do a lot of stuff that's Creole and Southern, I like to research what they're eating in the south these days," Haumersen said.

Pritchard, well he has a more abstract way of creating.  On top of the Table 128 menu, you'll spot "inspirations."  Songs or quotes that inspired a dish. But sometimes he might just walk into the fridge and let the ingredients do the talking.

"I really feel like I get to listen to the food and let it tell me what to do," Pritchard said.

Neither Pritchard nor Wedeking have the perfect advice for a restaurant to make it.

"We went 100 percent with our gut feeling, and this is what I believe in.  And you just hope that other people are going to think it's alright, and we got lucky," Wedeking said.

Good food, good ingredients ... that helps.

"I don't like to garble the plate with all of these wild ingredients, I really like to keep it minimalist as possible, with as few ingredients as possible, and really let those ingredients shine," Pritchard said.

Barbeque or modern cuisine, though they have different history, and different food philosophies. Their success comes from the same place: the people who've become their loyal followers.

"It feels like family here.  We love the staff and obviously the food is excellent, but it really feels like home," one of Wedeking's customers said.

"They're great people.  It feels like home, except we don't have food like this at home," one of Pritchard's customers said.

Des Moines may not have a history of being a gourmet city, but these customers will tell you: times are changing. And Des Moines has caught the bug.

"The food in Des Moines has come a long way since we first came here, and I think this is just evidence of that."

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