Chef Keith Taylor graduated from the culinary program at Sinclair Community College in 1997 while working as a sous chef at L’Auberge with Dieter Krug. In 2000, Taylor left L’Auberge to work at Pacchia, an Italian-American restaurant in the Oregon District under then owner Glen Brailey. After four years there, Taylor worked for a year at the Schuster Performing Arts Center until Citilites changed into a buffet-style arrangement. Taylor then went on to work at Country Club of the North, before finally deciding to open his own place in 2007. Savona Restaurant originally started out old world Italian, but has evolved over the years, the menu has broadened and the wine list is filled with French, Italian and American vintages. The menu changes a couple of times a year, but is often supplemented with specials, inspired by locally grown ingredients. Chef comes off a little shy when you first meet him, but over time I’ve learned he’s a great story teller, with a mischievous laugh and a sarcastic outlook on life. After much harassing, he reluctantly agreed to answer my 10 questions:
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Beer- that way I can have a little nip while I prepare. Bud is my standby, but I also like dark porters and stouts.
What ingredient do you dread?
The best part of owning a restaurant is I no longer have to cook things I dread! Really what I dread is the monotony of making simple dishes over and over, like salads, vinaigrettes… I really need a challenge. Another thing I dread is cooking for people who are vegan or have things like celiac disease in the middle of a rush. That’s such a responsibility to make sure you do not have any ingredient that can affect someone’s well being, I really don’t want to screw that up!
What’s your favorite dish to make?
Whatever I’m hungry for! At home it’s probably Sloppy Joes. At work I really like braising- it’s a slow process that infuses layers of flavor. I’m really into complex flavors and meat. Often the starch and veggie are last minute afterthoughts to the meals I plan!
What’s your favorite pig out food?
Pizza – Hand tossed pizza with everything- meat, cheese, mushrooms and onions. If you put tropical fruit on your pizza, I wanna slap you-that’s an abomination.
What restaurant, other than your own, do you like to dine at in the Miami Valley?
Who’s picking, me or my wife? If it’s up to me we’re going to C’est Tout or Meadowlark. It’s got to be an independently owned restaurant for me. If my wife’s picking, we’ll end up at Don Pablo. If the kid’s are with us, McDonald’s- I can eat a Big Mac with the best of them. I’m also trying to get my son into sushi.
What’s your best advice for home chefs?
If you could invite any 4 guests to a dinner party who would they be and why?
My Mom, Barack Obama- so I could find out what he really thinks,
Chef Dieter –but he’d be mad if I make him sit with Barack and my wife- because she and I bickering would be entertaining for all.
Who do you look up to in the industry and why?
Chef Dieter (and it’s obvious by the quieting of his voice and the slow tilt of his head, he’s still mourning the recent loss of his mentor) Dieter taught me to make Bouillabaisse. It’s a labor of love. Fresh stock, rich flavors and customers really seem to enjoy it. He also instilled in me a great work ethic.
What do you do in the Miami Valley on a day off?
Take my kids to school, ok I do that every day, then I like to cook for my family and have family time. The kids set the table and we sit down for dinner, just like I did when I was growing up. And I can’t wait to take my son to the Air Force Museum – it’s probably the coolest thing around here and I remember going when I was a kid.
Share a kitchen disaster, lucky break or other interesting story:
We were getting ready for a busy night and I asked a dishwasher to drain the stock. He poured the stock down the drain and kept the bones. After a few choice words and throwing a few things at him, I had to make stock, again…. I don’t explode like I used too. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s a lot less often… (Savona’s Sous Chef Trevor agrees- there’s never a dull moment with Keith- and he should know, as he’s worked with him as far back as Pacchia, and followed him to Schuster, Country Club of the North and came along to open Savona with him. Buy him a beer sometime and maybe he’ll tell you about the flying knife blade….)
Savona Restaurant is open for dinner Tues- Thurs from 5-9pm, Fri & Sat 5-10pm. Reservations are suggested- call 937-610-9835. Located in Centerville, at 79 S. Main Street, just south of St Rt 725, the restaurant seats 74 and features a wine tasting on the 2nd Wed of each month.
Savona will start serving lunch between 11am and 2pm on Fridays starting December 4th through the month of December.