Cole Arimes, Executive Chef/Owner of Coles 735 Main

How would you describe Coles? Coles is an intimate space focused on making every dining experience spectacular, whether you’re looking for a fine dining meal for a special celebration or a great burger at our bar after work. We’re a Lexington family-run business, and we love supporting our local farms and the Bluegrass community.

Do you have a favorite ingredient? Picking a favorite local ingredient is nearly impossible to narrow down for a chef, but I do love cooking with our locally-foraged mushrooms. Their flavors are so rich and earthy. But really, my favorite ingredient seems to change with each season - produce at the peak of freshness is unmatched for flavor, and the local pork, beef and chicken we get from regional farmers is of such high quality.

We hear that you’ve got a project in the works. Can you share any details? We’re beyond excited to introduce Lexington to our new restaurants: Epping’s on Eastside and Poppy & Olive are scheduled to open at the beginning of 2019. It’s been a labor of love getting the historic building ready for these two concepts. Epping’s will feature fresh, scratch-kitchen ingredients that come together for pastries, sandwiches and an evolving menu of international flavors. Poppy & Olive is our “parent-friendly” restaurant—a place where you can bring the kids for a menu and atmosphere they’ll love, all while mom and dad get to have a great meal and drinks.

Seth Rusell + Alissa Tibe, Executive Chef and Creative Director of Lundy's Special Events                                                                                                               LundysCatering.com

What sets you apart from other chefs/restaurateurs? As an off-premise catering firm, our kitchen is typically not in the same place twice! We are constantly challenging our culinary team to produce restaurant, farm-to-table fare in unique settings. With regards to the food itself, our strength is in the traditional southern classics, all while striving to stay ahead of the curve with the most current food trends.

What is your favorite local ingredient to use when cooking? Hands down, we love Weisenberger Flour and Stoneground Grits.

How would you describe Lexington’s food scene? Our food scene is robust! Lexington’s heritage and deep rooted stories make our offerings diverse, eclectic and delicious! We aren’t just famous for our rolling farms and bourbon; we have stellar southern barbecue, continental classics, and every ethnic option you can imagine. It’s all represented right here in our town by some of the most talented chef ’s and restauranteurs in the country.

What do you love most about the industry? The catering industry is ever-changing and never boring. One day you may be hosting an intimate group of 10 and the next day preparing for a gala for 500, then on to a major event for 10,000. Each day is always different, bringing new challenges and opportunity for creativity! Our menus are always the variable as each item is custom-tailored and designed around each client’s vision.

Ranada Riley, Chef/Owner of Ranada's Bistro and Bar                                                          Ranadas.com

What do you love most about the restaurant industry? Like most chefs, I enjoy meeting people and making them happy through food and drink, but for me, teaching someone about new flavors they may not have tried before—that’s priceless.

Do you have a favorite entrée? It seems like I have a new favorite every day, when I taste the nightly specials! However, I keep coming back to Bourbon Beef Banh Mi, which is marinated flank steak topped with Banh mi vegetables tossed in sweet chili and drizzled with miso aioli.

Douglas Johannes, Chef/Owner of Chef Doug's Gourmet Foods     ChefDougsGourmetFoods.com

How would you describe your mobile kitchen? My mobile kitchen is a kaleidoscope of flavors inspired by my childhood and my Caribbean culture. I have a great love for flavors and spices and I try to convey this love through my Bluegrass-Caribbean, New Wave dishes.

What is one ingredient you can’t live without? Gluten Free Yellow Cornmeal from Weisenberger Mills is a must in my kitchen as it is the backbone of our Deluxe Fish Fry Breading!

Russel Blair, Boone's Trace National Golf Club                                                      BTNGC.COM

How would you describe your restaurant? Boone’s Trace has a sports bar and grill atmosphere with a full fine dining menu. My favorite dish is our Shrimp and Penne Pasta done in a classic garlic and white wine beurre blanc.

What is your favorite local ingredient to cook with? I love to cook with Bourbon as well as Kentucky Proud Beef. So I definitely enjoy preparing our Prime Rib which is the special on Thursday nights, alongside seasonal specials, fresh soups and desserts.

What do you love most about the restaurant industry? Every day is a challenge since you’re only as good as your last meal, so chefs must be creative, resilient and consistently deliver a great product in a great atmosphere. However, in this industry you also have the opportunity to make people happy every day.

Janey Thompson, Executive Chef of Dupree Catering and Events               DupreeCatering.com / TheManeOnMain.com

What sets you apart from other chefs? As a catering chef, I enjoy the closeness of working with clients to create a memorable experience. I have immense pride in our “from scratch” approach and in bringing freshly prepared and seasonal ingredients to any location whether it’s our event venue—The Mane on Main, fine dining in a field or to a luncheon on a production floor.

What is your favorite dish? I don’t know if I can choose, it’s like picking your favorite child! Right now my favorite is our Kimchee Blini with Korean Fried Chicken and Pickled Carrot.

What do you love most about the restaurant industry? Hands down, the thing that has kept me in this job the past 15 years is that I love being part of our guests’ special moments and offering something that I love as part of that celebration.

What is your favorite meal to make at home? At home, I keep it simple. A delicious roasted chicken is a thing of beauty combined with some fresh greens and a light vinaigrette.

Dougie Allen + Sara Turney, Owner/Operator and Executive Chef of CRĒAUX  

What makes your restaurant unique? Dougie Allen: Crēaux was designed to bring people of different backgrounds and economic statuses together. Partners Ieasha Allen and Stephen Scaldaferri and I had a vision to bring the feel good times of a trip to New Orleans right here to Lexington. We feature signature cocktails and an inspired menu of creole classics with a Bluegrass touch. We are also proud to offer live jazz and soulful music on a consistent basis to our city.

What is your favorite dish on the menu? Sara Turney: My favorite dish on the menu is our shrimp and grits, its such a classic southern staple. I’m excited for the next evolution of our menu; I plan on creating some great specials—dishes such as NOLA Crawfish Mac and Cheese and Muffulettas.

What do you love most about the restaurant industry? Sara Turney: I love that it is an industry that is constantly evolving—it’s a challenge. You have to be creative, forward thinking all while creating memories for your customers. Dougie Allen: Absolutely agree, the interaction and opportunity to provide a guest a positive experience they can’t get anywhere else is very rewarding.

What is special about Lexington’s food scene? Sara Turney: Lexington’s food scene is surprisingly diverse. It is still developing, which gives chefs snd restaurateurs an opportunity to bring things people don’t expect to the table. There are so many talented people here who have so much to offer, it’s exciting to be a part of that.

Jonathan Searle, Executive Chef of Lockbox                                                      LockboxLex.com

What sets you apart from other chefs? Lockbox is a thoughtful, soulful, ingredient-driven restaurant showcasing the bluegrass. Therefore it’s important that I celebrate the ingredients by presenting them with simplicity and skill.

What do you love most about your career? I love the craft, mentorship and work-with-your-hands realness of it all. It’s brutal and you really can’t escape being judged for your work, but it’s so rewarding.

Bryce Anderson, Co-owner of Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen   VINAIGRETTESALADKITCHEN.COM

What sets Vinaigrette apart from other local establishments? The secret in Vinaigrette’s menu is working with amazing chefs from around town. Ouita Michel and Sara Gibbs have been involved in every one of our salad and soup creations.

What is your favorite local ingredient? My favorite local ingredient is our Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes from Crooked Row Farms on Winchester Road. They are fresh, juicy, flavorful, colorful and with the amount of tomatoes Vinaigrette serves to customers, it has a real local farm impact.

Darrell Lewis, Owner of Napa Prime                                                        NAPABURGERBAR.COM

What sets Napa Prime apart from other restaurants? The emphasis is on prime ingredients. We wanted to reinforce that with fresh seafood and prime burgers. I wanted to create a menu that you cannot duplicate at home. If you can make these items at home, then we offer no value to you as a guest.

What is your favorite dish? New York steak with chimichurri sauce and a side of french fries is my favorite. But, I’m a big fan of anything with Bourbon—it’s definitely my favorite local ingredient.

Shannon Willard, Deli Operations Manager                                                        GoodFoods.Coop

How would you describe your restaurant? Our cafe offers a bakery, made-from-scratch hot bar, salad bar, soup bar and made-to-order sandwiches; all featuring fresh, local, organic foods that cater to a variety of diets.

What sets you apart from other chefs? I get to exercise a broad range of culinary skills each day—from helping to choose the gourmet cheeses we carry in the grocery to hopping behind the mixer in the bakery to developing recipes for our cafe. I also get to work closely with local farmers. In fact, our kitchen purchases about $130,000 in local foods each year.

Jasen Fontaine, Executive Chef of JW's Steakhouse of Marriott Griffin Gate

What sets you apart from other chefs? I like to use as many local and micro-local ingredients as possible; anything that tells a story about Kentucky. I love to highlight the food and the passion that goes into making it. I hope to impart that on my son, we love making juicy Lucy burgers together

What do you love most about the restaurant industry? I love the interaction between so many people and getting to hear about how we have an impact on someone’s day.

When you aren’t in the kitchen, what do you like to do? I love to be outside: bike riding, hiking and playing with my kids.

Jake Sulek, Head Bartender of West Main Crafting Co.                                          WestMain.com

How would you describe West Main? West Main Crafting Co. is a craft cocktail bar. We make all of our ingredients in-house to provide the most exciting drinking experience possible. In addition to our vast collection of spirits and cocktails, we offer a thoughtful, Kentucky Proud food menu with shareable plates, entrees and specials.

What is your favorite item on the menu? Honestly, it’s a simple cocktail but our Gin & Tonic continues to be one of my favorites. We mix Castle & Key, which is locally produced gin with our homemade tonic and carbonate it behind the bar. We keep it on draft, that’s how easy it is to drink.

What is your favorite local ingredient? Bourbon, of course! An Old-Fashioned Cocktail is my favorite way to wind down after a long day.

Larry Hunter, Carson's Food and Drink                                                  CarsonsFoodandDrink.com

What sets you apart from other chefs and restaurateurs? Here at Carson’s we have a passion for excellence. Our chef-driven menu is centered on seasonal offerings which are served in a truly casual, yet elegant environment.

What is your favorite dish? My favorites here at Carson’s are the Ahi Poke appetizer and Filet Medallions entree. When I’m cooking at home, my “go-to” meal is Grilled Steak with Carson’s Truffle Butter.

When you aren’t in the kitchen, what do you like to do? Rock climbing in the Red River Gorge gets me out of the kitchen!

What do you love most about the local restaurant industry? I love the fast pace environment and the passion it takes to make excellence. Over the past 5 years, Lexingtonians have come to expect a higher quality dining experience and it’s both fun and challenging to rise above those expectations.