Newport Grill chef taking over at Izcali Tacos and Tequila

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Longtime Wichita chef Kevin Derks has just left Newport Grill after 11 years to take over the kitchen at the soon-to-open Itzcali Tacos and Tequila.

A longtime Wichita chef has left the restaurant kitchen he’s led for 11 years for a new opportunity.

Fans of Newport Grill, the upscale seafood and steak restaurant that opened in Bradley Fair in 2010, will recognize the name Kevin Derks. The chef had been with the restaurant since 2011.

He loved his time there, he said, but he was offered a new opportunity he couldn’t turn down. He’s now a partner in Itzcali Tacos and Tequila, the new restaurant Navid and Veronica Haeri are opening at 2819 E. Central.

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Itzcali Tacos and Tequila should open this fall at 2819 E. Central. Travis Heying The Wichita Eagle

Derks, who left Newport just before Easter, describes the move as an “excellent vocation change.” He’s in charge of putting together the menu for Itzcali, which will focus on tapas and tacos, and he also was able to design his own kitchen, he said.

He met Navid Haeri through his girlfriend, who had been a longtime assistant manager at Newport, and he liked the concept, Derks said.

“I’m ready to do upscale casual rather than just fine dining,” he said, and he’s working on a menu that offers “friendly food at a reasonable value and price.”

Haeri, who first announced plans for his restaurant last July, said he’s aiming for a fall opening.

Newport Grill has promoted Ivan Garcia, who was Derks’ sous chef, to the executive chef’s job.

Itzcali, which has taken over a building just up the street from the Revolutsia shipping container mall, will also stock 100 types of tequila and will have a V-shaped bar and a large Central-facing patio that will open into the restaurant through a retractable garage door.

This story was originally published May 17, 2022 12:23 PM.

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.