The winner of numerous Best of Warren County Awards over the years, Waynesville’s Cobblestone Village Café has established itself not only as one of Warren County’s premier dining destinations, but as a favorite for foodies throughout Southwest Ohio. In this second installment of our ‘Meet the Chef’ blog series, we take you behind the scenes and into the Cobblestone kitchen to meet Head Chef Jessica Livingston, the mastermind behind many of the café’s award-winning dishes.
Cobblestone’s menu varies by season. How do you balance evolving your offerings while honoring customer favorites?
We have a very adventurous clientele and that allows me to try things that may seem out of the ordinary. I try to make food that is simultaneously comforting and new–taking a piece of something familiar and adding an unexpected twist. Our customers are very vocal about their favorites, and I try to listen to them. Their favorites stay on the menu, while I still get to create new entrees that highlight the season.
What is your favorite protein to work with and how do you prefer to prepare it?
Beef. A good cut of meat that is simply, but, perfectly cooked. I love to pair a really good steak with a sauce that enhances–but doesn’t take away from–the flavor of the meat.
How important/prevalent are local ingredients to your menu?
I try to always use what’s in season, whether local or global, just for the simple reason that it tastes fresh and ripe. You won’t find avocados here in January because they won’t taste good. Every month we run a special where we highlight a local farmer or product. I want people to be more aware of what resources are available locally. We are a small local restaurant and shop ourselves, so any chance to help out fellow small business owners is always a plus.
From where do you draw inspiration for new dishes?
Everywhere. It can be something I’ve read, a friend relaying what she had for dinner the night before, or a new item that catches my eye at a grocery store. I’ve picked up items that I’ve never seen just to play around and see what I come up with. Cooking is all about inspiration, innovation, and creativity.
What is your personal favorite dish on Cobblestone’s menu?
Right now it’s the Baked Spinach Salad. Sometimes you create a dish and it just works on all levels. As a chef, when you create a dish that feels perfect, it’s bliss. Then you just have to hope everyone else feels the same way you do.
Where did you get your culinary experience?
I started working in kitchens while I was in college and loved it. I spent my early years working in kitchens from the ground up and apprenticing with people who were experts in the field. You are constantly learning in this field, always trying new things and new techniques.
What other chefs inspire you most?
I love any chef that takes pride in their work. You can tell by tasting their food that they love their job and what they are creating. To me, simple food is best, but I love when I get surprised by a mix of unique ingredients that blend well together.
Other than Cobblestone, what are your favorite local dining spots in Warren County?
Wildflower Café in Mason does it right. They consistently have great innovative menus.
What was your favorite meal as a kid?
I have had a love affair with pancakes and bacon my whole life. My favorite dinners as a child were always when we had “Brinner” (breakfast for dinner). It is still one of my top five favorite things to eat.
Want to learn more about Jessica’s restaurant? Dig in!
Cobblestone Village Café: Gourmet Lunch in a Quaint Atmosphere
Teen Cuisine in Historic Waynesville