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Louisville restaurants and chefs gaining notoriety lately in national media

by Steve Coomes

There’s a whole lotta love being showered these days on Louisville restaurants and chefs in some prominent media outlets.

This is important for two reasons: It shows outsiders what remarkable culinary talent and offerings we have here; but perhaps most importantly, such “expert out-of-towner” praise might get local officials and media to see that our restaurant scene is perhaps the best entertainment resource we have—and start promoting it seriously!

Edward Lee, chef-owner, 610 Magnolia

Churchill Downs and our theaters open only for certain seasons, but Louisville’s excellent restaurants are open for sampling year round. Why they remain so under-promoted, so short on support for a something like a large-scale food festival is a mystery to me.

Rant over. Here’s what’s happening:

In Southern Living’s January issue, just out yesterday, Louisville was one of 10 southern cities up for honors as the “South’s Tastiest Town.”


Southern Living senior travel editor, Paula Disbrowe, said a wide range of factors were considered in whittling the list down to 10 finalists.

“It started with a big overview of food towns, a mix of established food destinations followed by a look at more second-tier cities,” said Disbrowe. “These were places where that had a mix of food artisans and new tastemakers on the scene, people devoted to preserving southern culinary traditions while redefining them in their own way.”

Disbrowe also said SL editors chose cities whose citizens were “foodie obsessed,” where there was a high diversity of price points and cuisine, and where there was a strong mix of established and new concepts.

“Because southern food has never been hotter, we took this time to look at the big picture and ask, ‘What are the 10 most exciting places to eat and drink in the south?’” she said. “Now we’re offering the chance to readers to step up and vote for their towns and rally around their favorites.”

The list includes such notable food cities as New Orleans and Charleston, S.C., and some surprises such as Raleigh, N.C. and Decatur, Ga. Click here to see the full list, and bookmark it with a reminder to vote for Louisville on Dec. 23.

Edward Lee is impossible not to find in the media lately. In addition to soft-spoken 610 Magnolia chef-owner’s ongoing appearance on Top Chef Texas lately, the Iron Chef victor was featured—along with Bourbon Barrel Foods’ Matt Jamie, and other southern culinary luminaries—in Garden & Gun’s November issue, and in Southern Living’s January issue. And, I don’t mind saying, a short piece I did on Lee will appear in Louisville magazine’s January issue.

Kathy Cary, chef-owner of Lilly’s: a Kentucky Bistro, was

Kathy Cary, chef-owner, Lilly’s: A Kentucky Bistro

in the same November G&G issue as Lee, albeit in a special ad section paid for by southern states including Kentucky. That the state chose Cary as its “culinary face” is a high and deserved honor—would anyone dispute it?

What’s just as cool is the ad featured Cary’s “Kentucky Short List” of eight must-visit places she can’t live without. The list included:

1.Colonel Bill Newsom’s

Aged Kentucky Country Ham in Princeton. (Nancy Newsom Mahaffey is a genius, third generation ham maker and the only American to have her ham in Spain’s Ham Museum-yes, there is such a thing, and it’s big stuff.)

2. Bourbon Trail and Urban Bourbon Trail. (Natch. No tourist visit is complete without it, even if you don’t like bourbon.)

3. St. Matthews Farmers Market. (Amen. Though who can choose just one?)

4. Blue Dog Bakery & Café. (In a word, brilliant! Best bread this town has ever tasted.)

5. Proof on Main. (Can’t argue against that.)

6. Mayan Café. (EASILY the least-appreciated of the best restaurants in town! Bruce Ucan is a genius—just ask his chef peers—and Yucatan Mexican is like nothing most have ever had.)

7. Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg. (Well, with her endorsement, I’ll have to go, even though I’ve never liked Shaker Lemon Pie. A chef I once worked with said, “I know why they call it Shaker Lemon Pie: because I want to shake that S%#!off my plate!”)

8.Jonathan at Gratz Park, Lexington, Ky. (Terrific spot. Chef Jonathan Lundy’s innovative southern cuisine is served in a clubby, dark, old South setting.)

Michael Paley, executive chef, Proof on Main

Michael Paley, executive chef at Proof on Main and chef-partner at Garage Bar,was featured in Luxury Travel

magazine, which voted Proof on Main “One of the 10 Best Hotel Restaurants In America,” and on the blog, when a writer-diner at Proof’s Hog and the Barrel Dinner wrote a brief review.

It won’t take long before he’s getting kudos for Garage Bar, I’m sure.

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