Top Chef 2021

Curious about what happens in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant? How do those magnificent chefs do what they do? What are their favorite dishes to create? We asked some of Toledo’s best chefs for a peek behind the eats. Here’s what they had to say!


 

Rob Campbell

Side Hustle Pizza and Side Hustle Philly Steak

facebook.com/sidehustlepizza

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Cheffed-up comfort food.

Hometown: Adrian, MI.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 20.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Miller High Life.

You only get two condiments in your life, what are they? Mustard, Valentina Hot Sauce.

Favorite restaurant in Toledo other than your own: One Love Jamaican Restaurant.

If I weren’t a chef, I would have been: Homeless.

My pantry is always stocked with: Rice Krispies.


Josh Gearhart

Whiskey and the Wolf

http://whiskeyandthewolf.com

Hometown: Monroe, MI

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 21 years.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Fresh produce, meat and cheese.

You only get two condiments in your life, what are they? Mustard, mayonnaise.

Favorite restaurant in Toledo other than your ownThe Beirut.

What is the first dish you learned how to prepare? Chicken noodle soup.

How did you decide you wanted to be a chef? A love of food.

What is your favorite dish to prepare on your menu? Nachos.

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat isThanksgiving dinner with all the fixings.

What’s one item you offer that not enough people try? Chicken thigh sandwich.


 

Cody German

Basil Pizza and Wine Bar

basilpizzaandwinebar.com

Hometown: Kent, Ohio.

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Contemporary fusion cuisine.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? Going on 4 years now.

What’s the most memorable day you’ve ever had at your current restaurant? Valentine’s Day wine dinner last year! Wine dinners in general are my favorite part about my job. It’s something exciting and much more different than an ordinary dinner service, with lots of time and planning leading up to the execution. It’s also great to be able to work with a sommelier and bounce ideas off of each other.

How did you decide you wanted to be a chef? When I started writing my own recipes, I became passionate about my work. I love being able to express my creativity and put my own touches onto my dishes.

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: Chili! Food and beverages are seasonal, and when the temperature drops, we all crave comfort food.

What’s your latest addition to the menu? Just recently I added Steak au Poivre to the menu with an Italian French fusion flare. I sous vide the beef tenderloin so its super tender, melt in your mouth, then it’s served with a haricot vert demi-glace and an Italian twist with potato gnocchi tossed in a brandy peppercorn sauce.

What is the first dish you learned how to prepare? Chicken Marsala, pounding out chicken breading it and pan frying it then deglazing it with Marsala wine, demi-glace, and butter. It was an eye-opener for me and taught me to appreciate not only the steps of cooking, but the importance of leaving your own impression on the dish.


Graydon Gulvas

Benchmark

benchmark-restaurant.com

Hometown: Graytown, OH.

Years cooking in Toledo: 13.

Cooking style: French influenced comfort food.

What’s the most memorable day you’ve ever had at your current restaurant? November 1st of last year I did my very first wine dinner at Benchmark. I was very nervous but I made a menu that was true to myself and it turned out great. 

What is your favorite dish to prepare on your menu? Braised short ribs. There is nothing better to me than slow cooked beef that melts in your mouth. 

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: Chicken noodle soup. My grandma always used to make us chicken noodle soup when I was a kid and nothing is more comforting to me than a good bowl of chicken noodle on a chilly day. 

What is the first dish you learned how to prepare? One of the first dishes I learned to make of note would be making pizzas at Biaggi’s when I was 19. One of the best memories in my career was slinging out tons of pizzas and strombolis there. 

How did you decide you wanted to be a chef? I started off working at BlackBerry Corners in Martin (Ohio) at 15 years old. I fell in love with the restaurant life working there. Something about crushing a busy dinner service with your coworkers in a hot kitchen and seeing nothing but happy people leave the restaurant when you were done is a great feeling that I still enjoy to this day. I knew even then that that was something that I always wanted to do. 


Abdessamad (Abdel) Hakimi

Rockwell’s

rockwells.mbaybrew.com

Hometown: Taroudant city, Morocco.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 20 years.

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Classic with a Moroccan twist.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Lamb and fresh fish.

What is the first dish you learned how to prepare? Lamb couscous with my mom.

What dish are you known for? Moroccan potato salad.

What is your favorite dish to prepare on your menu? 32oz Wagyu tomahawk steaks with lobster claws or lobster mac and cheese.

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: Lobster Bisque soup.


 

Marcus Hartford 

Bar 145

bar-145.com

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo?: 10 years 

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Comfort, rustic and elevated.

Favorite restaurant Toledo other than your own: Benchmark, they’re amazing.

If I weren’t a chef I would’ve been: A music producer.

What dish are you known for? Mac & Cheese or Chicken Alfredo.

My pantry is always stocked with: Paprika soul salt and honey.

What is one item you offer that not enough people try? The brie cheese board. 

What is the first dish you learned how to prepare? Spaghetti.


 

Casey Johnson

Inside The Five Brewing Company

insidethefivebrewing.com

Hometown: Sylvania, OH.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 18.

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Elevated comfort food & collaborative.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Soy sauce, sriracha, butter & coffee.

My pantry is always stocked with: Kosher salt, ras el hanout & ramen.

You only get two condiments in your life, what are they? Ketchup & ranch, I’m as midwest as they come.

Favorite restaurant in Toledo other than your own: Mancy’s Italian.

What is the first dish you learned how to prepare? Bacon & eggs.

How did you decide you wanted to be a chef? It just hit me, I loved cooking and the feeling of gathering together with close friends and family. So why not make a career out of it?

If I weren’t a chef, I would have been: Maybe a photographer but I honestly can’t think of a life without me being a chef.

What dish are you known for? Nashville Chicken. (Never thought I’d say that.)

What’s your latest addition to the menu? Beef Stroganoff but done as if it were a fine pasta dish— again, elevated comfort food.

What is your favorite dish to prepare on your menu? Fish & Chips, it takes me back to my travels in the UK. I feel it needs to be said that I wouldn’t be anything without my team. I stated my cooking style is collaborative and I mean it. It’s not just one mind (mine) that comes up with all the dishes on our menu and I truly believe that my team deserves more credit than me in this Top Chef 2021, because without them I wouldn’t be the chef I am today.


 

Eric Kish and Jordan Krieg

Rosie’s Italian Grille and Rosaria’s, opening in Perrysburg in 2022

rosiesitaliangrille.com

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 22 years.

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Creative, adventurous, comforting, flavourful and diverse.

KISH:

My refrigerator is always stocked with: A lot of leftovers. If I am cooking dinner, I always cook way too much food so we definitely have a lot of leftovers in our refrigerator.

You only get two condiments in your life, what are they? Ranch, I am a ranch guy….and I would have to say horseradish mustard. I like spicy mustard. It goes well with a lot of things.

Favorite restaurant in Toledo other than your own: I would have to say my favorite restaurant to eat at in the area is Cocina de Carlos. I love Mexican food and I think they have some of the best food on the menu.

If I weren’t a chef, I would have been: In all honesty cooking has always been such a huge part of my life that I really do not know what I would be if I wasn’t cooking for a living. Cooking is all about creating a sense of community, whether it is between family and friends or the guests who come into our restaurant and that is something I have always loved to be a part of.

What’s your latest addition to the menu? We don’t have any new additions to our menu as of right now, aside from switching to hand cutting all of our steaks in house like our new 16oz ribeye. We are working on a lot of new creative dishes that we will have on the menu at our new restaurant in Perrysburg called Rosaria’s on 3rd street. We will definitely have a lot of the traditional items we are known for but we are working on a menu that is more refined, seafood forward, and incorporates many different culinary influences like Italian, French, and American cuisine.

What is your favorite dish to prepare on your menu? My favorite dish to prepare and eat is our Seafood Jambalaya. There are so many different ingredients that work well together and it is a very flavourful dish. It marries many of my favorite types of food like seafood, sausage, peppers, and chicken.

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: Mac and cheese. It is a great comfort food and perfect for the holidays.

What’s one item you offer that not enough people try? I hate to sound like a broken record and mention Seafood Jambalaya again, but I will. It is definitely an amazing dish that is not exactly one of our top sellers at Rosie’s. However, I believe if they ordered it they would be surprised to find that all the different food components work very well together, they just have to be able to handle the kick of spices that comes along with it!

KRIEG:

You only get two condiments in your life, what are they? Hot sauce, because I love a kick with almost every savory dish, and good old fashioned mayonnaise.

How did you decide you wanted to be a chef? From a young age I was always in the kitchen with my mom and grandmother, helping with dinner, baking pies and cookies and preparing holiday meals.

What do you think is different and unique about Toledo’s culinary scene? Toledo offers you a little bit of everything. You can have any type of cuisine from around the world, on any given night. We have an exceptional blend of top notch bar food, as well as a few establishments that offer impressive refined dishes.

What’s your latest addition to the menu? My favorite addition to our new menu coming at Rosaria’s is undoubtedly the Horseradish encrusted Halibut. It offers the perfect balance of spice and flavor.

What is your favorite dish to prepare on your menu? I love a perfectly cooked steak, so it would have to be Filet Mignon or our 16oz hand-cut Ribeye.


Carlos Mendez

Cocina de Carlos

cocinadecarlos.com

Carlos Poco Loco

carlospocoloco.com

Carlos Que Pasa

carlosquepasa.com

Hometown: Degollado, Mexico.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 15.

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Family inspired recipes.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Fruit. 

You only get two condiments in your life, what are they? Salt and lime.

Favorite restaurant in Toledo other than your own: Swig.

What is the first dish you learned how to prepare? Carne Apache (pickled ground beef).

If I weren’t a chef, I would have been: Marine biologist.

What’s your latest addition to the menu? Pumpkin Fried Ice Cream.

What’s the most memorable day you’ve ever had at your current restaurant? Opening day.

What is your favorite dish to prepare on your menu? Pineapple “Don Charly.”

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: Al Pastor Tacos.

Be honest: Have you ever gotten really mad at a customer? Why? When the customer says they don’t like their food without giving any reason or explanation, they just “don’t like it, take it off my check.” Why? Because I need information to prevent other customers from not liking my food, and I think [they’re] just full of chips and salsa and the customer no longer wants to pay for the food.

What’s one item you offer that not enough people try? Cactus Picante, steak cooked with fresh cactus-nopales simmered in hot-spicy roasted tomatillo sauce, delicious.


 

Erika Rapp

Registry Bistro

registrybistro.com

Hometown: Toledo.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 16 years.

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Eclectic Modern American.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Cold Brew Coffee and way too many Condiments— right now, I have no less than 6 different styles of mustard in my fridge.

My pantry is always stocked with: In case of an emergency, I am always well stocked and prepared to make chocolate chip cookies.

You only get two condiments in your life, what are they? Ohh…this is tough because I love condiments. But, I would have to say whole grain mustard and Cholula (Hot Sauce).

Favorite restaurant in Toledo other than your own: There are far too many to list.

What is the first dish you learned how to prepare? Chicken Divan when I was a little girl. It was a dish my mom would make often when we were growing up. But we always called it “Chicken Divine.”

How did you decide you wanted to be a chef? I took a summer job in a kitchen when I was 16 by just happenstance and fell in love with everything about it.

What dish are you known for? Probably our scotch olives … or our dessert for two.

What’s your latest addition to the menu? We have been having a lot of fun with our Spanish Pop Up concept, Registry Barcelona, that is available on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. We feature Spanish tapas and paella. We just added Rabo de Toro (braised oxtail in paprika sauce with almonds) and a Mock Brandada. Classically, brandada is a dish of salt cod and whipped potatoes that is enjoyed warm and slathered on grilled bread. Our version is vegan, hence the “Mock”. It is prepared with smoked jackfruit and olive oil whipped potatoes with herbs and lemon served warm with grilled sourdough bread. It has quickly become a favorite among both our team and our guests.

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: Just about anything braised.


Moussa Salloukh

Souk Mediterranean Kitchen

soukkitchenbar.com

Hometown: Oregon, Ohio.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? Since I was 17.

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Mediterranean Cooking with a hip twist…

If I weren’t a chef, I would have been: A fireman.

What dish are you known for: Garlic Roasted Duck Breast.

You only get two condiments in your life, what are they? EVO and Aleppo Pepper.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Roasted Garlic.

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: French Onion Soup.


 

Aaron Stahl

Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse

nagoyaohio.com

Hometown: Ontario, Ohio.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 1.5.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Garlic and ginger.

How did you decide you wanted to be a chef? Cooking makes people happy, I enjoy helping people create happy memories.

If I weren’t a chef, I would have been: A pediatrician.

What’s your latest addition to the menu? Soy braised short rib, Japanese sweet potatoes, roasted miso rainbow carrots, soy cured egg yolk.

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: Hearty soups.


 

Josue Vallejo

Zia’s

ziasrestaurant.com

 

Hometown: Toledo.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 25 yrs.

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Traditional, on the grill.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Chicken thighs.

How did you decide you wanted to be a chef? I decided to become a chef while attending Rossford High School in my Home Economics class, when my teacher Mrs. P told me she saw a spark in me every time I entered the kitchen.

If I weren’t a chef, I would have been: If I wasn’t a Chef I would follow in my father’s footsteps and be a union painter.

What’s the most memorable day you’ve ever had at your current restaurant? The most memorable day while at Zia’s was the day I received my own business card.

What is your favorite dish to prepare on your menu? My favorite menu item has to be our Chicken Marsala.

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: My favorite thing to eat this time of year is bone-in pork chops seared with apples and caramelized onions with baked sweet potatoes and honey glazed carrots.


Josh Wheeler

Whitehouse Inn

thewhitehouseinn.net

Hometown: Swanton.

How many years have you cooked in Toledo? 11 years.

Your cooking style, in five words or less: Gordon Ramsay.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: Beer.

My pantry is always stocked with: Whiskey.

What dish are you known for? My Alfredo sauce.

What’s your latest addition to the menu? Chef Josh’s Hot Hot Sauce.

What is your favorite dish to prepare on your menu? Prime rib.

At this time of year my favorite thing to eat is: Pasta.

What’s one item you offer that not enough people try? Our artichoke dip.