Being a chef and restaurateur might seem like an insulated profession, but Travis Russell infuses his work with community every day. “I’m constantly trying to create a network in my microcosm,” he says. “It’s really collaborative and communal.” Among other things, he works to empower artisans, farmers, and artists by hiring them, buying from them, and helping to build their reach among others who might use their services. Wichita has a rich history of entrepreneurship in the culinary industry, but nowadays, Russell says, Wichita is also using food as a beacon of civic pride. “It’s about everybody buying in and sustaining one another,” he says. True, he runs a business just like the other chefs in town and is responsible for the bottom line. “The margins are not large, so you have to be on top of your game.” Still, Russell buys organic and local food for his menu at every possible opportunity. At KMUW’s book club, Literary Feast, Russell creates themed dinners every month and tells the attendees in detail about every herb and vegetable he used, and which farms they came from.
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