Columbus! Culinarily speaking, everyone thinks that you’re the doughy, boorish, strip mall-laden cousin of Cleveland, who’s hot in that girl-next-door kind of way, if that girl were Michael Symon. But as Anthony Bourdain once found out, there are a few hidden talents buried in that post-industrial snowscape — and if you’re driving through Columbus, there’s no need to despair, sad gourmand. Here are ten chefs you need to know about, stat.
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She's worked around the country, for big names like Emeril Lagasse and for corporate caterers in Chicago, but she made a big name for herself at
Alana's in her hometown, where she's served local ingredients for over a decade. "I returned to Columbus for the love of my life and a job offer," she told 614 Magazine. "This city is just the right size for me. This city is crammed with creativity." (Image credit: Alana's)
Blondin, a native of Lyon, France, had the privilege to work in some of the best restaurants in the world, as well as
study under Paul Bocuse. Whaaaaaat? No wonder he's been nominated as a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for his work at The Refectory. (Image credit: Chris Casella)
So what if he doesn't have national acclaim? Glover's restaurant
brings Sage really good food to the fine students of Ohio State University, which we're sure they appreciate between tailgates and binges. "Even if descriptions include flashy components like “avocado mousse,” “bone marrow foam” and a “curry vanilla emulsion,” their unvarnished, generally two-word titles (e.g. “Ohio Pork”) show chef Bill Glover‘s focus is honoring his main ingredients," writes food critic G.A. Benton. "Time and again, this results in playful presentations but clear and distilled flavors." (Image credit: Facebook)
Jeni Britton Bauer
The ice cream maven drew inspiration from her time working at a French pastry shop during art school, and now peddles her
crazily flavored ice creams in five Columbus-area shops, as well as multiple high-end grocery stores around the country. Let's put it this way: she's big enough to catch flak from Big Gay Ice Cream in the Great Ice Cream Mafia Wars That Exist Only In Our Imaginations. Not bad for a patissier from Columbus making Thai Chili ice cream. (Image credit: Dean and Deluca)
This Japanese chef owns the restaurant Kihachi,
beloved by Anthony Bourdain himself, who called it a surprisingly exceptional find in a city he generally frowned upon. Little known fact: trained in Japan and with years at a renowned tempura restaurant in Osaka, Kimura spent many years slinging at the New York Benihana before opening up his authentic Japanese restaurant. This is okay, because 1) he did that in 1985, during the barren years of Japanese food in America, and 2) he got out before Benihana was equated with a gag from
(Image credit: The Office. Flickr.com)
This restaurateur owns
seven restaurants, all with different, crazy themes (were you aware that "Betty Page" could be a theme?), rendering her the Midwest Danny Meyer. (Need proof? Hot dog stand named Dirty Frank's. Boosh.) Also like Danny Meyer, she opened her first restaurant at a very young age. "My advisor at college begged me not to leave school and told me I was making a big mistake," she told The Metropreneur. "I decided at the time − I was age 27 − that I could put off my education and it was an ideal time personally to try to open a restaurant. I was single, energetic, ambitious, unmarried and had no children or other obligations. It was the right time for the risk. I’m so glad I went with my gut on that one." (Image Credit: Columbus Socialite)
Not only is Rigsby renowned for his Italian-American (and also JBA-nodded) cuisine at
Rigsby’s Kitchen, he also receives Baller Status for being the first restaurateur to set up shop in the now-hip, then totally scary Short North neighborhood. "I remember working in the kitchen one night," he reminisced to 614 Magazine, "and this crazy guy comes in the door, really haggard and wild-eyed, and started walking through the dining room, yelling, 'I am the son of Jehovah! I am the son of Jehovah!' ... And I replied, 'Well you know, we are all going to die and I am a son of Jehovah, too.' I was just engaging him until the police came and took him away. I was just young and sort of stupid, I guess, but I had no choice. I don’t know if I could do the same thing today." (Image credit: Columbus Socialite)
This executive chef of
boasts over fifteen years in the restaurant biz. Brian is an East-Coast expat who trained under David Burke. He has been executive chef at Fromagerie in Rumson, NJ (an AAA Four Diamond winner) and previously sous chef at American Seasons in Nantucket, MA (which held Best of Boston and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence titles). Brian launched his much-lauded career in the Buckeye state by helping to open Z Cucina, which was named Best New Restaurant by the Columbus Monthly and touted in the Columbus Dispatch’s Top 20 while he was executive chef. Added bonus, he adorably demonstrated Duck Confit in Columbus' series. Chefs in The City
He might look like a way less creepy version of
Pyat Pree, but Magdiale Wolmark is pushing the boundaries of Columbus's dining scene with his restaurant TILL. A newer version of his upscale vegan restaurant Dragonfly Neo-V Cuisine, TILL proudly boasts "super high sourcing standards, resourceful and artisanal production methods, classic and sometimes re-invented classic preparations,” as Wolmark -- himself also a Beard semifinalist -- told the Columbus Underground, which named it the Best New Restaurant of 2012. (Image credit: Twitter.com)
Formerly the head chef at the popular
Barcelona's for fifteen years, Yow recently struck out on his own to open with his wife, creating a weirdly eclectic, Midwest-Korean menu, drawing from their respective backgrounds. The result, according to Hae-Paul a review on "Cooking unusual — in a good way — scratch-made, comforting yet healthy-edged, American and Asian fare at “please keep doing it” low prices, Hae-Paul’s offers an unbeatable new Downtown combination." (Image credit: Columbus Alive!: Columbus Food Adventures)