Local & Simple
The Columbus Museum of Art’s Schokko Café welcomed a new chef and menu earlier this season. Executive Chef Laura Richmond brings a commitment to sourcing locally and a love of food from around the world. From Mango Gazpacho to Avocado Toast with House-Cured Salmon to Beet Salad featuring Humboldt Fog goat cheese out of Cypress Grove, California, the new menu pairs Ohio staples with some of the best from regions around the country. We caught up with Laura to learn more about her career and what she values as a chef. —CL
Q: Where did you gather your love of cooking and good food?
A: I’ve always loved eating. I remember being a kid and “helping” my mom make Christmas cookies. I’d always try to invent a new recipe. Generally, delicious things did not come from this endeavor. My mom would always shake her head and say, “Why don’t you follow a recipe?” In fact, she still says that!
I think that part of the fun of food is that you don’t necessarily have to follow recipes. Once you learn different techniques, you can apply them yourself to get whatever flavors you want. And nothing teaches you what makes a good cookie better than making a dozen bad batches!
Q: How would you describe the flavors of Central Ohio and how do you highlight them in your cooking?
A: I think the flavors of Central Ohio are local flavors. When you take a great tomato that was grown in Ohio, and you don’t fuss it up with a bunch of nonsense on the plate, then in my book you’ve succeeded.
I think there’s always this temptation for a chef, especially a nerdy chef like me who likes to collect cool gadgets, to look at that tomato and be, like, “How can I make it better? What can I change this into? Can I turn this into a sphere, then freeze it in liquid nitrogen and light it on fire?” The best food is local and simple.
Q: Do you have any local purveyors, artisans or farmers that you’re working with to source locally?
A: Sure do. I love my purveyors. They’re the people that are making magic happen behind the scenes. I’ll wake up from a bad nightmare of being out of tomatoes and text my rep at 3am and, believe it or not, they respond!
We’ve worked closely with lots of Columbus favorites like Dan the Baker (seriously some of the best bread I’ve ever had), Crimson Cup and Jeni’s Ice Cream. We get some of our lettuce from a farmer in Cleveland who grows their own lettuces in a greenhouse 365 days a year. And our burgers are grass-fed here in Ohio.
Q: With springtime here, what’s your favorite springtime vegetable?
A: I think most menus feature asparagus heavily in the spring. And don’t get me wrong—I can get down with some good spring asparagus. But spring peas are my jam. Still in the pod. They have a very short time in season, but when the getting is good, you’ll definitely see them on our menu as a special.
Q: Why do you love being a chef?
A: What don’t I love? You can see seasoned restaurant people from a mile away. They have a different look about them. A swagger to them. I love the culture, for the most part. The diversity. In very few other professions can you have coworkers from Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Ecuador, Morocco and Peru all at one job, working towards the same goal. And we all share our food. One day I had tamales for breakfast, chicken tagine for lunch and arepas for an afternoon snack.
It’s a common misconception that the chef teaches their staff about food. I’m constantly humbled by how much I get to learn from everyone I’ve had the honor of working with.
Visit the Schokko Café and learn more at columbusmuseum.org