Salina native, Grant Wagner, has come a long way since he began washing dishes at a small Lawrence restaurant. He's been the sous chef at J.J.'s Restaurant, in the Country Club Plaza neighborhood, for a year and a half. Wagner worked in several restaurants while studying anthropology, but then realized how much he loved the lifestyle. And finally at 4 Olives, in Manhattan, KS, he found his culinary calling. So Wagner changed his career path and received an associate's degree from Le Cordon Bleu, in Scottsdale, AZ. He moved back to the midwest to complete his degree with an internship at Kansas City's Bluestem.
As the fellow who oversees day-to-day kitchen operations at J.J.'s, Wagner says his cooking style is all about simplicity. "I love everything about fresh fish, from touching it when it first arrives, to the lingering aroma that stays with you for hours. And vegetables are my favorite thing to cook - really, really fresh vegetables, add some heat, garlic, herbs and eat. Almost all of our produce is from local farmers that come to us."
Smoked Grilled Pork Chops With Au Gratin Potatoes & Mustard Fruit Chutney
1/4 large yellow onion
2 ounces (1/8 pound) butter
2 ounces flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup 2% milk
1 pork rack
Cut into 14 oz. double bone chops. Brine for 24 hours (see recipe below).
Grill chops choosing your preference of a fruit flavored wood at 120º for 2 hours. Mark chops while on the grill, remove and put into the oven at 400º until desired temperature.
AU GRATIN POTATOES
1 ½ large Idaho potatoes
Béchamel sauce (see ingredients and recipe below)
2 ounces (1/8 pound) cheddar cheese
2 ounces Swiss cheese
2 ounces fontina cheese
2 ounces mozzarella cheese
Wash, peel, and slice potatoes extremely thin, shred all cheeses, then spray an 8 x 12 pan with pan spray. Combine cheeses in a bowl.