Chef Ouita Michel has always made locally grown ingredients a priority in her cuisine.
That’s why it’s so good.
"For me, it was the study of French and Italian cuisine and the realization that they use local agricultural artisan products in their food," Michel said in a recent article. "And that's why it's so good. That's why from the beginning of wanting to be a chef, I've had a commitment to local agriculture. Buying local is an old-fashioned tradition that we sort of abandoned for a few decades."
She and her husband, Chris, bought the Holly Hill Inn in 2000 and opened the fine dining restaurant in May 2001. Ouita’s use of locally sourced foods both helps sustain Bluegrass family farms and provides her customers only the freshest, best-tasting fine cuisine. The devotion to local foods is evident also at Wallace Station Deli and Bakery just outside Midway, and their newest restaurant, Windy Corner Market, Lexington, as well as at Woodford Reserve Distillery outside Versailles, Ky., where Ouita is chef-in-residence. Plans for a bakery in Midway are underway.
Her restaurants have purchased almost $1 million of Kentucky-grown meats, dairy products, fruits and vegetables over the last 10 years.
Chef Ouita’s work continues to earn accolades from local and national fans. She was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award in 2011 for the fourth year in a row as Best Chef in the Southeast, competing against chefs in major metropolitan areas. Southern Living featured her in its May 2009 issueʼs Southern Chef Salute.
Ouita and Chris are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Active in her community, Ouita is a member of Slow Food USA; a founder of Francisco’s Farm, an annual juried fine art and craft festival in Midway; and in 2010 was named to the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a statewide citizens group working to improve education for Kentuckians. She, Chris and their daughter, Willa, live in a 200-year-old cabin with an expansive garden adjacent to the Holly Hill Inn.
Ouita has won acclaim in radio, television and print, including The New York Times, which wrote of the Holly Hill Inn as “a gem of a restaurant.” She also has appeared in publications such as Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, Southern Living and on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Ouita was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award in 2009 for the second year in a row, as Best Chef in the Southeast, competing against chefs in major metropolitan areas. Southern Living featured her in its May 2009 issue’s Southern Chef Salute. Ouita was chosen to present an all-Kentucky feast at the James Beard House in New York City in 2004 and will return to prepare another dinner in March 2010. A former Madeleine Kamman scholar, Ouita was named one of “Forty Under Forty New Leaders for a New Millennium” in the state of Kentucky by the Shakertown Round Table. She has served as a Celebrated Chef for the National Pork Board and is a Chef Ambassador for the American Egg Board.