Joe Stumpy has written about Wichita cooking for more than two decades, and during that time, he’s collected hundreds of recipes and met hundreds of local chefs.
All that time in the foodie trenches makes Stumpe—also a popular local musician, culinary coach, and editor of The Active Age—uniquely qualified to identify Wichita’s most famous dishes, which he did in a new cookbook/food history book just published by The History Press (also Publisher of my book “Classic Restaurant of Wichita.”)
The book, titled “Icons of Wichita: Amazing People, History, and Recipes,” has an official release date on Monday but is already available at Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas, and from Stumpe, which sells signed copies. It’s the publisher’s second Stumpe book: in 2018, he authored “Wicked Wichita,” an exploration of the city’s earliest villains.
The 239-page book contains nearly 200 recipes—some submitted over the years by generous Wichita restaurateurs and chefs, some that helped talented home chefs win local and national competitions, and some shared by an eclectic group of Stumpe food friends and acquaintances. Many of the recipes were previously published during Stumpe’s tenures in The Wichita Eagle, Spurgee Magazine and The Active Age, all of which gave him permission to reshare them in the book.
But “Iconic Eats of Wichita” isn’t just a cookbook. It also includes an entertaining history lesson on the cuisines that helped make Wichita the city it is, especially the dishes served by the Mediterranean, Asians, and Mexicans.
The book also includes photos and stories of the city’s most famous chefs, from members of the Wichita Thursday Afternoon Cooking Club, which began in 1891, to current Wichita culinary stars such as Chef Jason Febres and WSU Tech Culinary School Director John Michael.
“That was really important to me,” Stompey said. “I wanted it to be about the people who make the food. I’m not into writing stylized descriptions of food. It’s interesting stories about the people who make it.”
Stumpe, who in 1999 moved to Wichita from Little Rock, Arkansas, to take over as food editor at The Wichita Eagle, admits in the book that he wasn’t particularly hopeful that the city would offer so much food variety. But he said it only took about a week for him to realize his fears were unfounded.
In Wichita, Stumpe was given his first bowl of Vietnamese pho, an experience he described as “like a first kiss…something mysterious and intoxicating.” Wichita is where Stumpy and his wife, Wichita Eagle business writer Carrie Rangers, met the like-minded foodies they invited for meals or attend dinner parties at their home, and are always happy to share the recipe.
The book also includes popular Wichita recipes that Stumpe has collected over the years, including one for Ken’s Klub Garlic Salad and one for Saigon’s No. 49 – A bowl of chicken bread made with vermicelli noodles, shredded lettuce, and seasoned chicken. Readers can also find many of the recipes that have become a staple on Stumpe, and he marks his personal favorites with asterisks. Among them: a recipe for ceviche he obtained from Taqueria El Paisa at 21 and Akrkansas when it was still open; one for a Greek pastitio that he got from a bakery-sale cook at a local Greek Orthodox church; And one roasted salmon he got from local chef Tony Card and is estimated to have earned 100 or more over the years.
Stumpe also collected recipes from well-known local Wichitans, including former mayors Karl Brewer and Carlos Mayans and former Attorney General Nola Fulston. And he spoke to several restaurants and current chefs, including the guys from The Flying Stove, in sharing previously unpublished recipes.
The book also includes a chapter that is a tribute to two late chefs whom Stomp considered friends – founder of Tania’s Soup Kitchen Tanya Tanduk, who was murdered in 2015, and former Neighbors Bar and Grill owner Chuck Giles, who was murdered in 2019. Recipes from both of them.
Stompey said that when deciding how to organize the book, he drew inspiration from the Time-Life Foods of the World series, a collection of 27 books published in the 1960s and 1970s that featured not only recipes from countries around the world but also pictures of and stories about The chefs who made it.
In his book, Stumpe used candid, informal photos of the chefs he served, rather than staged food photos or shots.
“You can’t write a comprehensive cookbook about food anywhere,” he said. “But you can make it eclectic and focus on the most interesting parts. I tried to make it journalistic too.”
Iconic Eats of Wichita costs $23.99. Those who want a signed copy can contact Stumpe by emailing email@example.com or by calling 316-942-5385.
He will also be at a book signing party starting at 1pm on January 22 at Watermark Books.
This story was originally published January 11, 2022 1:09 pm.