There are talented women behind many successful cafes and restaurants in the Wichita area, from soup specialists to coffee experts and executive chefs to owners. Here’s a look at three you should know in the Heart of the Country:

Owners of Cheri's Bakery

Kalee Rose & Marisa McCall – co-owners at Cheri's Bakery

Cheri's Bakery has been a part of the Wichita dessert scene since 2002, specializing in custom cakes and cookies for all occasions including birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, bridal and baby showers and holidays. They also have a full bakery line of pies, muffins, brownies, drop cookies, cheesecakes, cupcakes, whoopie pies, fruit bars and more. When the founding owner Cheri retired, two long-time employees took the reigns – Kalee Rose and Marisa McCall.

“We had very different journeys that brought us into the baking industry,” said Kalee. “I went to culinary school in Chicago right out of high school and graduated with a Baking and Pastry degree. From there, I began as an intern at Cheri's and worked my way up to cake decorator, lead cake decorator, bakery manager and now co-owner. Marisa went to the University of Kansas and received an Art History degree. While she didn’t have previous baking experience, she jumped in and started at the bakery as a cookie decorator and grew from there. Eventually she become lead cookie decorator, bakery manager and now co-owner.”

One thing the duo loves about the baking industry is that it is always evolving. “With such a focus on custom cakes and cookies, our designs and themes are always changing based on current trends,” said Marisa. “Inspiration can be found all around us, whether that’s on social media platforms or with other leaders in the industry. At the bakery, we are able to be very creative and hands-on with designing new cakes and cookies or experimenting with different flavors to come up with our next new menu item.” 

When asked what advice they’d give to a visitor regarding Wichita’s dining scene, they recommend a combination of asking locals and being open to a variety of cuisines. “There are new and interesting restaurants opening all the time, however there are so many local favorites that have been around for years. Because Wichita has a wide variety of dining options, there is always something new to try – from upscale restaurants to food trucks and hole-in-the-wall gems. Ask a local and I bet they’ll happily share their favorites with you,” said Kalee.

Natasha Gandhi-Rue, chef and co-owner of The Kitchen, poses in her red chef coat in the dining room of her restaurant

Natasha Gandhi-Rue – chef and co-owner at The Kitchen

Chef Natasha Gandhi-Rue earned her culinary degree at the French Culinary Institute at the International Culinary Center in New York City though years as a corporate chef and trainer with Williams-Sonoma equally influences her work at The Kitchen, the restaurant she opened in 2016 at Wichita’s historic Union Station.

She opened The Kitchen to serve updated comfort food, from the Southern Fried Chicken BLT to delicious creme brulee for dessert. While not everything on the menu is healthy, the dishes are made with clean, fresh ingredients. That means burgers made from fresh-never-frozen beef with no fillers and bacon containing no nitrates, for example.

“We make everything we possibly can from scratch so it’s food that’s good for you and also good for your soul,” she said. “We also pride ourselves in having something on the menu for everyone, whether they are vegan, eating gluten free or craving a juicy burger. We want people to feel good about what they are eating.”

Gandhi-Rue also has a passion for sharing her food knowledge by teaching classes, either privately by appointment or on Sundays when the restaurant is closed (advance registration required and they sell out quickly). Watch The Kitchen’s Facebook page for free 30-meal cooking demonstrations shown live online and meant for home cooks to follow along.

Jennifer Reifschneider – executive chef at The Belmont

Chef Jen Reifschneider loves to take a classic and make it new again, and you can get a taste for that style at The Belmont, a popular restaurant and bar in Wichita's College Hill neighborhood. 

Reifschneider returned to the Wichita area after earning a degree in business administration at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and pursuing her passion for cooking with a culinary degree from the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver. She describes her cooking style as classical cuisine meets modern technique.

“I’m inspired by unique, seasonal and interesting ingredients,” she said. “I believe in making everything from scratch, using the best ingredients we can source and creating a memorable dining experience for our guests.”

Her advice to finding Wichita’s dining gems? “Don’t be afraid to go out of your way and it’s okay to cross the river for a great meal.”

You can find more female chefs, bakers and brewers by reading this blog post on women-owned and operated businesses in Wichita. We hope learning about these three diverse women will show you the talented chefs and variety of cuisine you’ll find when you visit Wichita.