A grilled "steak" with oven-roasted potatoes and onions, fettuccine alfredo, chipotle bean burritos with fresh-made pinto beans and salsa chipotle chili, and a slice of creamy cheesecake — these are just some of the mouth-watering menu items at the Garden Grill Cafe.
However, patrons at the restaurant may be surprised to find there's something missing from all these dishes: meat. Chef Miguel Larcher serves only vegetarian and vegan food at his cafe in downtown Wichita (even the "steak" is actually a portabella mushroom).
Larcher's goal is to change what people may think about vegetarian/vegan cooking and to inspire them to eat healthier. He's teaching a cooking class from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 1 at the Newton Senior Center, 122 E. Sixth St.
"We try to put our food into the community and open their mind to the healthy way of cooking," Larcher said.
Originally from Martinique and trained in Martinique and France, Larcher obtained degrees in classical cuisine, as well as vegetarian specialties. He has served as executive chef at a variety of restaurants, including ones in France, Germany and Tennessee. He also has served as a consultant to several vegetarian restaurants and a French university. He now operates the Garden Grill Cafe at 300 N. Main St. in Wichita.
Larcher focuses on vegetarian and vegan food made with Greek, Italian and Mediterranean flavors (Note: The difference between a vegetarian and a vegan is that the vegan consumes no animal products, including dairy and eggs). At the Newton class, he will give some cooking demonstrations and provide the audience with samples and recipes to take home. He will show the audience several meatless cooking techniques, such as how beans can make food more "flavorful and hearty" and how to properly use spices.
"This is the background of good cuisine," said Larcher.
Larcher has seen a growing demand for vegetarian and vegan food due to concerns about obesity and healthier living. However, people may hesitate to actually give up meat because it seems too challenging, or they may try a meatless diet for a few weeks and then give up. The trick, he said, is to learn some simple techniques before you get started.
"They are excited about cooking after this," he said.
Cost for the class is $5 at the door. For more information about the event, call 516-0783.