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Best of Kansas City

Food & Drink

Best Unsung Chef 

Wayne Cox, Executive Chef

Other chefs tease Wayne Cox about his "institutional cooking" because he oversees a kitchen that prepares buffet dinners for 600 people at a time. Local dinner-theater fare had earned a bad reputation over the years, and at the New Theatre, Cox and his predecessor, Mark Rohman (now the theater's vice president of operations), had to change public perception. But creativity in the world of bulk cooking is hard work. Cox and his crew of twelve full-time cooks have to perform some impressive theatrics in the kitchen. "We've learned a lot by experimenting over the years," Cox says. "Every time someone said to us, 'Oh, you can't make that dish in volume,' we would try it and learn, more often than not, that we could. I'm given a lot of creative freedom, which is a mixed blessing. Our audiences love what we do, but now they have favorite dishes, and they want those things to always be on the menu. But that's what keeps the job challenging." The food now earns customer scores as high -- or higher -- than the plays.

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