Just a Few Miles South
Ouita Michel announces her first cookbook
BY KRISTINA ROSEN
If there was anyone who didn’t need an elevator pitch to sell their first cookbook it would be Ouita Michel.
Michel recently announced her cookbook, Just a Few Miles South: Timeless Recipes from our Favorite Places, featuring over 150 recipes for popular menu items from her Lexington restaurant empire which includes Holly Hill Inn, Honeywood, Windy Corner Market, Wallace Station, Midway Bakery, and Zim’s, to name a few. The new title will be published by Fireside Industries, an imprint of the University Press of Kentucky.
The chefpreneur says, “It’s the culmination of a long process of writing the book and I’m so excited for people to be able to have their favorite recipes from these restaurants and be able to make a lot of these recipes we’re famous for at home.”
More than recipes, Michel shares stories of the inspiration for dishes and the history of her unique restaurants. Both expert and novice cooks can learn how to make the homemade bread that they know and love from Wallace Station while they discover more about why she wanted to open a restaurant built around Po-Boys.
Kentucky celebrity chef and author Edward Lee describes Michel as “a custodian of tradition, a magician of flavor,” adding, “her restaurants are the narratives that tell us who we are in Kentucky.”
Peggy Noe Stevens, founder of the Bourbon Women Association and coauthor of Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon says “Ouita is quintessential Kentucky, reflecting our treasured culinary culture. Her respect for the Bluegrass blends perfectly with her incredible and innovative journey with food.”
The book has been in the works for six years, as she sandwiched the project in between her duties running a thriving restaurant business and scaling back recipes from the restaurant and testing them for home kitchen use.
The cookbook was a team effort with help from chef-recipe-writer-editor Sara Gibbs and special projects director for Chef Ouita restaurants Genie Graf. Artist Brenna Flannery drew the cookbook’s illustrations.
Michel chose to have black and white illustrations accompany her recipes rather than photographs, explaining, “The illustrations are as big a part of the book as the recipes are, it reads like a graphic novel almost, it’s really beautifully designed.”
One of the illustrations even inspired Michel’s first tattoo. Flannery, who is a tattoo artist at Charmed Life Tattoo, had drawn a couple dandelions for the cookbook and during the recent Covid shutdowns, Michel says she began identifying with dandelions.
“Dandelions are cheerful. They have that bright yellow color, they’re durable and sturdy, and you can also eat them. At the end, you get to make a wish for the future and blow all their seeds away, so I really love the dandelion,” says Michel.
With the challenges facing dine-in restaurants this past year, this cookbook will offer a springtime solution for Kentucky food lovers who want to re-create the same flavors from Chef Ouita restaurants at home.
Lexington Pastry chef and New York Times-bestselling author Stella Parks has spent time at Wallace Station and the Holly Hill Inn “as both a patron and a chef,” and says the new book serves as “a brilliant field guide to the food and culture of the bluegrass, as embodied by Ouita’s family of restaurants.”
Just a Few Miles South is available now for pre-order for Spring 2021. Reservations for pickup come with a ticket to the Spring launch party at Fasig Tipton.
This article also appears on page 11 of the November 2020 print edition of ace magazine lex.
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