“Ouita has delighted consumers with her locally-sourced, awe-inspiring, mouth-watering cuisine and won over the hearts of the communities in which each of her restaurants call home.”
Ouita Michel has become a powerful name that resonates culinary genius across the state of Kentucky.
Over the past 15 years, Ouita has delighted consumers with her locally-sourced, awe-inspiring, mouth-watering cuisine and won over the hearts of the communities in which each of her restaurants call home. Ouita realized early on that she wanted to be a chef and is committed to supporting local agriculture in all of her eateries, a tradition that seems to have been abandoned for decades throughout the region.
Since opening the fine-dining restaurant Holly Hill Inn with her husband Chris in 2001, Ouita has opened six additional restaurants across the Bluegrass including Wallace Station Deli just outside of Midway; Windy Corner Market and Restaurant as well as Smithtown Seafood in Lexington; The Midway Bakery in Midway; and Woodford Reserve Distillery outside of Versailles, where Ouita serves as chef-in-residence and operates both Glenn’s Creek Café along with Glenn’s Creek Catering. Ouita recently opened her newest restaurant, Honeywood at The Summit at Fritz Farm, which serves delicious Kentucky-inspired cuisine in an atmosphere that radiates southern hospitality.
Ouita’s restaurants have purchased more than $2-million worth of Kentucky-grown meats, dairy products, fruits and vegetables throughout her ownership. She has been nominated for six James Beard Foundation awards and her restaurants are regularly featured in national publications.
Smithtown Seafood, her popular farm-to-table restaurant, opened its doors on West Sixth Street in 2013 and is now preparing to expand the concept into The Barn at Fritz Farm. The Smithtown Seafood stall at the region’s first food hall will exude the same familiar experience – with one exception. The stall’s menu will only feature thoughtfully-creative seafood dishes and fresh salads, leaving the red meat category to their neighbors, Pasture by Marksbury Farm.
Jonathan Sanning will sit at the helm of this new location, operating the stall as executive chef.
Jonathan awakened his love of cooking while earning a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Kentucky. While attending college, Jonathan worked in kitchens across the city to perfect his craft, from TGI Fridays to the locally-owned Merrick Inn to the Boone Center fine-dining restaurant on campus. After graduating from UK, Jonathan began his gastronomic journey at Sullivan University and earned an associate’s degree in culinary arts in 2012.
After completing an apprenticeship at the Castle Post in Versailles, Kentucky, he joined the Ouita Michel team as part of the kitchen staff at Windy Corner Market in Lexington, eventually earning the acting head chef position. From there, he opened Smithtown Seafood for Ouita where he now serves as executive chef, using fresh seafood along with local meats and produce to create the restaurant’s inventive menu in downtown Lexington.
Like many chefs, Jonathan associates his admiration of cooking with his grandparents. His paternal grandfather, Roman, had worked as a short-order cook in New York after returning from the Korean War and Jonathan grew up watching him prepare incredible meals on family vacations. Additionally, his maternal grandmother introduced him to the classic Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, which unlike contemporary cookbooks, compiled instructions on how to butcher domestic animals, bake bread, and how to prepare classic vegetables, grains and desserts.
Jonathan embraces a passion for local food for the large local population. He “deliberately sought a job with Ouita because of her dedication to sourcing ingredients locally.” He also believes that collaborating with local farmers for both proteins and plants “facilitates the pleasure of producing thoughtful food for all who care to eat.”