Elizabeth Wiley, WILEY, as she is known to everyone, grew up in Kansas and has been cooking professionally since 1979. She arrived, fresh from college, on the doorstep of The Winds in Yellow Springs, bursting to cook and asking for a job in 1980. She worked her way up to kitchen manager, and became a partner in 1994. Along the way she left several times to cook and to gain knowledge in all aspects of the restaurant business, with stints in Chicago, San Francisco and Key West. She always returned to the Dayton area, where she regards the quality of life offered as one of the best kept secrets in the Midwest. In 2004, Wiley left The Winds to open a small, neighborhood restaurant, The Meadowlark, just east of the Dayton Mall, Midwestern in nature and domestic in style. To Wiley, this means that when you walk in the door it smells like someone’s cooking and you get a big hello. Her goal is for people to feel at home with simple, delicious food and friendly service.
Wiley was brave enough to be our first Chef to be featured in this new
feature 10?’s. Hope you’ll enjoy her answers as much as I did:
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Wiley: chickpeas, chiles, tomatoes, shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, I could go on and on but can’t pick just one!
What ingredient do you dread?
Wiley: Flour—it intimidates me
What’s your favorite dish to make?
Wiley: Braised pork belly with fresh shell beans
What’s your favorite pig out food?
Wiley: Homemade tortilla chips
What restaurant, other than your own do you like to dine at in the Miami Valley?
Wiley: The Winds, Taqueria Mixteca, The Emporium for breakfast in Yellow Springs, Rue Dumaine, especially Friday lunch which I never get to go to.
What’s your best advice for home chefs?
Wiley: Don’t over-complicate things
If you could invite any 4 guests to a dinner party who would they be and why?
Wiley: Steve Martin – so smart and funny
Calvin Mayne – no man is more gracious (except his father), or more passionate about food
Renee Montagne – host of NPR’s Morning Edition, for all the stories she must have
Barbra Streisand – I fell in love with her at age 12 and she still captivates me
Who do you look up to in the industry and why?
Wiley: Joyce Goldstein – chef and food scholar, cookbook writer
Rick Bayless – amazing chef with amazing energy, great businessman, I was priviledged to work for him in the 1990s
Danny Meyer – incredibly successful Restaurateur in New York City
What do you do in the Dayton region on a day off?
Wiley: Coffee at Boston Stoker and read food magazines, Lunch at China Cottage or Smokin’ , followed by a matinee at the Neon Movies and a trip to DLM on my way home to make dinner.
Share a kitchen disaster, lucky break or other interesting story:
Wiley: Last summer I went to New York City for the first time in over 20 years. I made a lunch reservation before I left on Open Table for a table for one at Union Square Café. This is one of my hero restaurants and I have their cookbooks, look at their menu on line all the time, etc. but had never been there. In the comment section of the webpage I made the reservation on, I mentioned that I had a small restaurant in Dayton and was excited about finally visiting USC for the first time.
So I go to New York and I arrive at the restaurant at the appointed time. The general manager greets me by name at the door and introduces herself. She brings me to a table much larger than any other that singles are seated at, one that commands a front and center view of the entire restaurant. Propped against the salt and pepper shakers is an envelope with my name on it. I open it and it’s a personal, handwritten note from Danny Meyer, the owner of the restaurant (and 6 more restaurants in NYC) thanking me for making Union Square Cafe one of my culinary destinations on my trip to New York. I am blown away. I realize it is Wed., the day the dining section in the NY Times comes out, and I ask if there is a paper I can read. There isn’t, so they send out for one. I have a real moment sitting in this incredible restaurant, reading my beloved NYTimes dining section IN NEW YORK. Wow. I order two items from the menu and get five. They keep bringing me things! Like fresh corn and rabbit ravioli, cranberry bean soup with basil and shrimp, super-crispy chicken with green beans and mustard sauce, and it is all so good. Members of the staff keep stopping by to say hello. One woman tells me her son’s girlfriend is from Dayton. I had such an amazing time being the recipient of this extraordinary hospitality. Of course I went back for dinner and sat at the bar and it was so crowded and energetic and convivial—a truly great restaurant experience, and so inspiring for a chef/owner.
Is there a chef you’d like to know more about? Drop us an email
and we’ll see what we can do!