The aroma was unmistakable: that special combination of spices, cumin, chillies and cinnamon that every Cincinnatian knows. But I wasn’t in Cincinnati: this was Louisville, and the tangy scent was coming from the kitchen behind the 610 Magnolia function room.
This is the restaurant that brought Edward Lee’s attention to national attention. The Brooklyn-born Korean-American chef made a name for himself in Louisville, celebrating and combining the flavors of the Middle South with Korean and other traditions. He just won the James Beard Award for Best Book for “Buttermilk Graffiti,” which explores the melting pot kitchen of America today. He has two other restaurants in Louisville, MilkWood and Whiskey Dry. He hosted a season of Mind of a Chef on PBS, celebrating his experience of bringing Louisville home while incorporating other experiences.
Now he’s bringing his philosophy to Cincinnati. His new, as-yet-unnamed restaurant opens this spring at the new Kinley Hotel on Seventh Street and Race Street in downtown. He worked on the concept with Kevin Ashworth, the head chef at 610 Magnolia, who will be running the new restaurant. It’s a homecoming for Ashworth, who is from Cincinnati’s East Side and a graduate of the Midwest Culinary Institute. He has a solid legacy in the Midwest, growing up on the potlucks in the church where his father was a pastor. “I learned a lot in Louisville and I think I have another perspective to add to the Cincinnati dining scene,” said Ashworth.
Hence the lovely smell: Ashworth had just made one of the noodles he wants to serve in the new location. Like many of his and his mentor’s dishes, it is inspired by a place run by a chef. The improvisation on Cincinnati’s most famous dish uses different noodles, different types of meat, different types of cheese. It’s like Cincinnati chili with a masters degree that maintains the spirit but applies different rules, such as: For example, making the pasta chewy, interesting and getting back to its roots by using lamb instead of beef.
Ashworth has worked with Lee for 10 years since graduating from the Midwest Culinary Institute. Lee met him here at an event. “He’s just a great worker. You can’t teach passion and commitment, and when I see it in a younger person, I’m interested,” Lee said.
[ Subscribe now for unlimited access to Cincinnati.com ]
Ashworth began as Guard Manager at 610 Magnolia, was the inaugural chef at MilkWood, and has headed Magnolia since 2016. “We’re finishing each other’s dishes these days,” said Lee. “We cooked together for a long time, we think the same thing.” Ashworth said, “We have traveled a lot together: Malaysia, Milan, restaurants everywhere. I still call him a chef.” You’ve also traveled to Cincinnati several times a month lately to get a feel for the dining scene here.
“Everyone there was so humble, so nice to us,” said Lee. “I’m really excited to be part of the Cincinnati chef community,” said Ashworth. His sous-chef Max Wagner has already been hired, his best friend from cooking school who worked with Todd Kelly.
The Kinley Hotel in Cincinnati marks the first opening in Vision Hospitality Group’s new humanistic portfolio. Mitch Patel, CEO of Vision Hospitality, said that Humanist “gets the hotel experience back to the roots of what makes travel such a desirable pastime: connecting with fellow travelers, connecting with the community you want to explore, and to connect with yourself. ” “” It has 94 guest rooms and suites in a building dating back to 1910. The restaurant is located on the ground floor and gives access to a small outdoor area. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here.
With its localized menu, the restaurant fits in well with the intentions of the hotel. In Louisville, Lee cultivated Kentucky traditions and worked with local farmers and producers. He sees that the interest of his and other chefs has enabled the farms to build a market and stay in business. As they develop the Cincinnati restaurant, he and Ashworth make the same connections here. Products on the kitchen counter include some well-known products like Mad House vinegar and products from Ohio Valley Food Connection.
Pasta was a focus of experimentation by Lee and Ashworth. You’ve found an Ohio source for interesting new types of wheat: emmer, einkorn, spelled, and high-quality semolina. “We’re going to be making a range of Midwestern-themed pastas,” Lee said. “You won’t be the Italian standards.”
But pasta will only be part of the menu. They’re working on something like a lobster thermidor, using the Kentucky XO sauce that Ashworth makes with dried catfish and country ham.
Lee’s experience has shown that the culinary traditions of the Midwest are not only inspiration for delicious food, they may be in their prime. “People are interested because this idea of authenticity is so unique and so desirable,” said Lee.