West Virginia’s Best “Wild” Chefs

West Virginia

Chef Tim Urbanic is the executive chef at Cafe Cimino Country Inn, which he owns with his wife Melody. Named after his grandmother, who he credits with teaching him how to cook, the restaurant offers diners a menu filled with authentic Italian cuisine with a decidedly West Virginia twist.

How has growing up in West Virginia influenced your cooking style?
I’m a very traditional Italian/Mediterranean cook. I’m considered an old-world chef. But I definitely see my West Virginia upbringing influencing what I cook every day. I grew up in coal country in a family of coal miners. There were a number of Italian immigrants that settled here to mine coal. That heritage slowly integrated itself into what we consider traditional Appalachian fare—the brown beans and cornbread. Italian immigrants brought olive oil from Italy, and they really jazzed up the food in West Virginia over the years. I learned to bring those traditional Italian family recipes to the table and take them to another height by turning them into a fine-dining experience. I learned to have a real respect and reverence for food, which can be seen in the way we present the food we make.

What are some other ways you try to add West Virginia flair to the Italian fare on your menu?
I think one of the greatest ingredients we have is the West Virginia hospitality. My wife (Melody) and the local servers really embody it, and as a result, people are really happy with the way we present the food to the table. Also, we always hire cooks with passion. We can teach people the skill of cooking, but you can’t teach someone to have passion. You just have to have that when you wake up in the morning.

 

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