Culinary Mavericks

. April 24, 2018.


When it isn’t made to order, what do chefs cook?

We asked Toledo area chefs who love to cook about their favorite dishes. Some told us about the meals they make to impress friends and family. Others told us about their favorite dishes to make when they are strapped for time. And others took us back to the beginning, showing us the food they first mastered which made them realize they were destined to become a chef. Read on to learn about some big kitchen moments for these culinary mavericks.

Dustin Schoenhofer | Barr’s Public House

3355 Briarfield Blvd, Maumee | 419-866-8466
11:30am-12am, Mon | 11:30am-1am, Tues-Fri | 4pm-1am, SatDustin-Barrs

The meal I make to introduce myself:

Storyboard Steak and Potatoes. Coriander five-spice encrusted Texas sirloin strip steak, seared to medium rare, sliced and topped with Béarnaise sauce, and accompanied with roasted rosemary truffle redskin potatoes, braised brussel sprouts, fresh mesclun salad and crispy onions.Dustin-Steak

I used all four themes to create an autobiographical culinary journey that shows how my experience has affected my approach to food. Not only can this dish be prepared and executed in an hour, it includes everything that gave me the confidence I needed to take on a real chef’s position here at Barr’s.

The plate starts at the beginning of my professional culinary career, when I developed the spice blend in 1998 with Chef Tony House during my externship with the Cousino family while studying at Penta County Vocational. The Béarnaise is a nod to my times on tour as a musician, when I was able to make the sauces on a grill or in a foil pan with limited resources.

DJ Narges | Evans Street Station

110 S Evans St, Tecumseh, MI
517-424-5555 |

11:30am-9pm, Tues-Thurs | 11:30am-10pm, Fri-SatDJ-Evans

The meal that made me realize I was a chef:

Lamb Shoulder Porchetta with Blueberry Beurre Rouge and Mint Salsa Verde. Like most of my dishes, this lamb dish kind of came together itself. I’m inspired by what local ingredients are on hand and in season.DJ-Lamb

What’s unique about this is that I used lamb shoulder, instead of the chops which appear on menus most of the time. These animals offer more cuts than we usually see. They give their lives for us and it’s a matter of respect to research and introduce some of these other wonderful, but not so sought after cuts. In the end, it pays off in so many different ways.

Jeff Dinnebeil | Benchmark Restaurant

6130 Levis Commons Blvd, Perrysburg
419-873-6590 |
11am-10pm, Mon-Thurs | 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat | 3pm-9pm, SunJeff-Benchmark

The meal I make to impress:

36 oz. Porterhouse Steak, served Oscar style with king crab, béarnaise, and butter poached asparagus. If you really want to wow someone , it is impossible to to go wrong with surf and turf.Jeff-Porter

At the restaurant, we serve choice meat and a rotating prime butcher’s cut, so I’ve made dishes like this in the past. Oscar style is a traditional steakhouse option that we occasionally run as a special. Guests can find dishes similar to this on our spring menu, which will debut at the end of May.

Carlos Mendez | Cocina de Carlos

27072 Carronade Dr, Perrysburg | 419-872-0200
205 Farnsworth Rd, Waterville | 419-878-0261
11am-9pm, Sun-Thurs | 11am-10pm | Fri-SatCarlos-Cocina

The meal I make to impress:

Smoked Street Tacos. Not only is this impressive, but it doesn’t usually take me longer than an hour. I filled the handmade corn tortillas with carne asada steak and al pastor pork, a spicy and sweet combination of guajillo rub and pineapple.Carlos-Tacos

I like to serve my tacos with a smoked and roasted borracha salsa, also known as drunken salsa, which is made with mezcal and offers a distinctively piquant taste. All of the complex flavors come
together beautifully.

Jason Goldsmith | Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano

1320 Levis Commons Blvd, Perrysburg
419-872-6100 |
11:30am-9pm, Sun-Thurs | 11:30am-10pm,  Fri-SatJason-Biaggis

The meal that made me realize I was a chef:

Butter poached lobster pizza with garlic, spinach, and oven roasted tomatoes, served with a Parmesan Reggiano sauce and topped with candied bacon and shaved pecorino cheese. I always loved to eat as a kid and, even then, I would try anything once. When I started working at a pizza joint near my house I really started loving the way you can pair ingredients to make new and unique flavors.Jason-Butter

Some combinations got really interesting and we would have competitions to see who could make the most off-the-wall pies. I took my new love for cooking and started to make my home kitchen a test kitchen for all the wild recipes in my head. That was when I realized that I needed to start my career in a kitchen. That was 22 years ago and I am still going strong.

Brock Jaworski | Fowl and Fodder

7408 W Central Ave, Toledo | 419-690-2490 
8am-9pm, Mon-Fri | 8am-9pm, Sat | 8am-4pm, Sun
614 Adams St., Toledo | 419-214-1588
8am-9pm, Mon-Sat | 8am-4pm, Sun

The meal I make when I only have an hour:

Avocado Toast. It offers so many fun flavor combination and is full of healthy fats to fuel your day. Good toast is important, so I start off by using my favorite baker in town, All Crumbs Bakery on Adams, which makes the best bread in Toledo.Brock-Hash

My favorite way to serve avocado toast is with a cream sauce made from cashews and different toasted spices, seasoned and mashed avocados, an egg, and a puree of tahini and beets and extra veggies have a really fun colors.

Moussa Salloukh | La Scola Italian Grill

5375 Airport Hwy, Toledo
419-381-2100 |
5-9pm, Sun-Mon | 5-10pm, Tues-Thurs | 4-11pm, Fri-SatMoussa-La-Scola

The meal that made me realize I was a chef:

Kafta, made with ground lamb, and served with tabbouleh and hummus.Moussa-Kafta
I am Lebanese, so these were common dishes served as I was growing up. I think when you get to the point where you have mastered your own ethnic dishes the way your mother, grandmother, aunts, and other family members made them, you realize you are ready to be a chef. Anyone can cook burgers, but I think it all comes down to your background and your family. I didn’t learn this cuisine through recipes— my family always made dishes to taste, with a pinch of this, pinch of that. Learning it takes time and experience. It was such a good feeling when I first made this for my family and they loved it and were impressed.

Bahaa Hariri | Sidon Lebanese Grille & Bakery

4625 W Bancroft St, Toledo
419-558-3900 |
9am-9pm, Mon-Sat | 9am-8pm, SunBahaa-Sidon

The meal I make when I only have an hour:

Sidon’s Charcoal Grilled Whole Chicken. This is an easy-to-make family favorite that pleases everyone at the table. The chicken, or “farooj”, is butterflied and rubbed with lemon, garlic, olive oil and a blend of Mediterranean herbs and spices, and marinated overnight. Bahaa-CxnThen it’s grilled on our natural charcoal barbecue for that smoky, perfect flavor, ready to eat right off the bone. The meal is served with yellow rice or home-cut fries, fresh vegetables and garlic sauce. Fresh stone-fired pita bread completes the feast, making it a simple yet delicious dish that pairs beautifully with an appetizer of hommus or baba ghannouj. All that’s left to do is your roll up your sleeves and dig in!

Clinton Stanton | Brandywine Country Club

6904 Salisbury Rd, Maumee
419-865-2393 |
11am-2pm and 5pm-9pm, Mon-Thurs | 11am-2pm and
5pm-10pm, Fri | 10am-2pm, SunClinton-Brandy

The meal I make to impress:

Deconstructed Beef Wellington. This is one of my favorite entrees to create to impress someone whether it be a new member or someone close to me. This unique recipe has ample flavor that arrives from slow braising the filet to infusing the rosemary demi sauce. Clinton-WellyTo compliment the main course I hand roll the puff pastry arches and garnish the plate with roasted forest mushrooms on top of microgreens. While I typically stick to the main ingredients of the recipe, I aim to make the deconstructed beef wellington a little different to keep our members and guests curious every time.

Matthew Kowalski | Whitehouse Inn

10835 Waterville St, Whitehouse
419-877-1180 |
11am-10pm, Mon-Thurs | 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat | 11am-9pm, SunMatthew-Whitehouse

The meal I make to impress:

Tequila Chicken.This was one of the first dishes that I made for co-owner Tony Fronk when I was hired two years ago. He loved it, and it became one of my first dishes to make it on the menu and now it’s very popular. A chicken dish like this is just out of the ordinary for this steakhouse. Matthew-TequilaBefore I got here, the restaurant was known for their prime rib, but in 20 years, they never changed the recipe and never had a trained chef. Tony and his wife Stephie loved the Tequila Chicken and let me make a lot of adjustments in the kitchen, like changing the prime rib recipe, adding scratch made au jus, and bringing in fresh food and a higher quality.

Tony Bilancini | Swig

219 Louisiana Ave, Perrysburg
419-873-6224 |
11am-12am, Mon-Thurs | 11am-2am Fri-Sat | 11am-10pm, SunTony-Swig

The meal I make to impress:

Handmade burrata with grilled watermelon and mint pistou and warm fresh chickpea naan. Served with a prickly pear mojito. Tony-BurrattaMost people like fresh mozzarella, and burrata takes the flavors and textures a step further by forming the cheese in a pouch and filling it with soft, stringy curd and cream. The flavor balances with the watermelon’s caramelized sugars, the fresh mint sauce, and nutty, warm naan.

Steve Smith | Mancy’s Italian Grill

5453 Monroe St, Toledo
419-882-9229 |
11am-10pm, Mon-Thurs | 11am-11pm, Fri | 4pm-11pm, Sat |
4pm-9pm, SunSteve-Mancys

The meal I make when I only have an hour:

Spaghetti and meatballs. I always felt like growing up, pasta was the quick easy dinner that only took a few minutes to put together. Being in a family that was always busy with sports, schooling events, and work my mom didn’t have all the time in the world to make dinner. It was usually simple dishes that could feed a family of five and could be made in under an hour. Steve-SpaghettiSpaghetti and meatballs now is completely different from what I remember. With scratch made pasta and veal meatballs, it’s a little bit different than what mom use to make. That is what I enjoy about cooking, though. Simple flavors that can take you back to your childhood, but scratch made and with a twist.

Sean Moran | Toledo Club

235 14th St, Toledo
419-243-2200 |
11:30-2pm and 5:30pm-8:30pm | Mon-Fri | Member DiningSean-Toledo-Club

The meal I make when I only have an hour:

Southern style salmon. A perfectly pan-seared salmon fillet served atop a bed of smoked cheddar, shrimp, grits made with tasso, and a chipotle butter sauce. Sean-SalmonThe healthy salmon is made creamy and delicious with the grits flavored by tasso, a spicy cured pork popular in Cajun cooking. Smoked cheddar and shrimp offer flavors of their own, and the plate is pulled together by the decedent chipotle butter sauce.

Kevin Young | Kira Japanese Steakhouse

3324 Secor Rd, Toledo
419-371-3213 |
11am-2:30pm and 4pm-10pm, Mon-Thurs | 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat | Noon-10pm, SunKevin-Kira

The meal that made me realize I was a chef:

Sushi. Three years ago, I started making sushi. At first, I thought it looked easy but soon realized it’s much more than just fish and rice— there is so much more preparation that diners don’t realize when enjoying sushi. I prepare rice every morning to ensure it is the perfect consistency— it can’t be so dry that it will break apart, or become so sticky that is will become a big mushy block. Kevin-SushiThe fish must be sliced evenly— not too thick, or the piece won’t fold and bend with the rice, and not so thin that the fish breaks. It took me a few years to perfect the art, and when I did, I realized I could be a chef. Still, every day is a new day to learn and experiment with the different way of making sushi.

Saif Dari | Zaza Woodfired Pizza and Mediterranean Cuisine

3550 Executive Pkwy, Toledo
419-531-2400 |
11am-10pm, Mon-Thurs | 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat | Noon-9pm, SunSaif-Zaza

The meal I make when I only have an hour:

Ful Medames (Stewed Fava Beans) made my way. Fava beans have no saturated fat or cholesterol and contain a high concentration of thiamin, vitamin K, vitamin B-6, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Saif-Ful-MedamesThey are also an inexpensive source of lean protein. It does not take me more than 30 minutes to prepare this dish and my two sons love it.

Rob Campbell | Dolce Vita Italian Grille

391 N Telegraph Rd, Monroe, MI
734-241-6100 |
11:30am-9pm, Sun-Wed | 11:30am-10pm, Thurs-Fri |
4pm-10pm, SatRob-Dolce-Vita

The meal that made me realize I was a chef:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I knew as a child that I loved food. As a child I loved cooking with my grandmothers and going out to eat.Rob-PBJSo the the PB&J just symbolizes the ultimate childhood sandwich. Food has always consumed my life.

Eric Kisch | Rosie’s Italian Grill

606 N McCord Rd, Toledo
419-866-5007 |
11:30am-9pm, Sun-Thurs | 11:30am-10:30pm, Fri-SatEric-Rosies

The meal that made me realize I was a chef:

Prime Rib. This is the first meal that I can remember that I mastered. The first time I cooked prime rib it didn’t go so well. There is much more to cooking prime rib then I thought. Eric-PrimeFor example not using enough seasoning, marinating for too short or for too long, cooking it at too high of a temperature, so on and so forth. After a few failed attempts I pretty much had it mastered. The description of this item is garlic and horseradish crusted prime rib.

Cindy Luce | Rockwell’s Steakhouse and Lounge

27 Broadway St, Toledo
419-243-1302 |
3pm-10pm, Mon-Thurs | 3pm-11pm, Fri-Sat | 12pm-8pm, SunCindy-Rockwells

The meal I make to impress:

Dry Aged rack of lamb with couscous and tomato-mint chutney. The lamb used for the dish is from Colorado. It is custom dry-aged for 30 days.This process improves the flavor by intensifying it. The result is a mellow, mild but very flavorful rack of lamb that is very tender as well. Cindy-RackIt is seasoned only with salt and pepper then char grilled to medium rare. The light flavor of the fresh couscous topped with the tangy tomato-mint chutney adds just the right accent to this dish. We are featuring this dish all month long in Rockwell’s at the Oliver House.

Michael Rosendaul | Mancy’s Steakhouse

953 Phillips Ave, Toledo
419-476-4154 |
11am-2pm and 5pm-9:30pm, Mon-Thurs | 11am-2pm and 5pm-10pm, Fri | 4pm-10:30pm, SatMichael-SteahouseM

The meal I make when I only have an hour:

Pasta alla Puttanesca, also known as Whore’s Pasta. I can make this in the time it takes to cook the pasta, or turn a trick. Sauté together, very good Olive oil, chopped fresh tomato, minced garlic, chopped good olives, capers, minced anchovy ( for that extra umami bang if you like.) Michael-PastaToss with the cooked pasta with a splash of pasta water. All the goodies with the olive oil should coat the pasta, add extra olive oil as needed. Finish with shredded, aged cheese like Pecorino, Parmigiana, Provolone (Italian only, Domestic Provolone is not Provolone) spend the extra money on the cheese, as a little goes a long way. I love this dish, it fills your soul. You don’t need a lot of ingredients because the ones I use are so full of flavor.

Jeremy Pogan | Mancy’s Ideal

5333 Monroe St, Toledo
419-841-0066 |
4pm-10pm, Mon-Thurs | 4pm-11pm, Fri-Sat | 4pm-9pm, SunJeremy-Ideal

The meal I make when I only have an hour:

Fish Tacos. I tempura batter and fry Mahi Mahi, topped with a red cabbage sherry slaw, pickled red onion, a roasted red pepper aioli, and a fire roasted salsa. Garnished with cilantro and grilled limes. Its few and far between that you meet someone that doesn’t like a fish taco. Also I found that people that don’t like traditional Tex-Mex are more willing to try a fish taco. Jeremy-FishThey are super versatile, you can use any fish you want, cooked any way, put it between a tortilla, just add you favorite toppings and you’re all set. With it getting nicer out, I’ll be able to get the grill out and make them as often as I can with an ice cold Tecate in hand.

Matt Lawrence | Mancy’s Bluewater

461 W Dussel Dr, Maumee
419-724-2583 |
4pm-10pm, Mon-Thurs | 11am-11pm, Fri | 4pm-11pm, Sat | 4pm-9pm, SunMatt-Bluewater

The meal I make to impress:

Pan seared halibut finished with uni butter, set in dashi broth with sauteed asparagus and wild mushroom and garnished with cilantro, shaved asparagus, salmon roe, and pickled daikon radish. Matt-HalibutThis Asian influenced dish is very aesthetically pleasing, with the bright orange of the roe popping against the green. It’s delicious, made with expensive ingredients, and a total showstopper perfect for an upscale party or for a special party reservation.

Elias Hajjar | Poco Piatti

6710 W Central Ave, Toledo
419-720-8028 |
11:30am- 9:30pm Mon-Fri | 4pm-9:30, SatElias-Poco

The meal I make when I only have an hour:

Kibbe Nayee: lamb butchered in house and ground with cracked wheat and chopped onion. Served with cucumbers, onion and radish. Tabbouli: fresh chopped parsley salad with cucumber, tomato, onion and mint. And Arak, a traditional anise liquor served with water and ice. Elias-KibbeThis is Sunday at the Hajjar’s. Both recipes are traditional, and I don’t mess with perfection. The anise in the Arak clears the palate so you can enjoy each bite equally.