This post is written by Shelley Mann. Shelley is the founder of Umami Consulting, a company that provides marketing and public relations support for local, independent restaurants in Columbus.
Chef Richard Blondin moved to Ohio from Lyon, France, as a young chef eager to travel and excited to try his hand cooking stateside. More than two decades later, he’s still here.
A lot has changed on the Columbus dining scene over those decades, but The Refectory’s reputation as the city’s finest dining option has not. Blondin’s impeccable French technique, masterful sauces and artistic presentation helped earn the restaurant a coveted trifecta of awards—Best Fine Dining, Best Romantic Restaurant and Best Wine List—in this year’s Best of Columbus reader poll in Columbus Alive.
Have diners’ tastes changed in Columbus over the last 20 years? They have changed. The industry has changed. We’re working more with local ingredients these days, everybody does. We see more local farmers knocking on the door trying to sell their product. If you look back not even five years ago, that was not the case.
Have you established relationships with some of the local farmers? Yes, we have great relationships with several local farmers who are growing things just for us. We work especially closely with Cota Farms in Cardington, Ohio. I like this philosophy, because in the restaurant industry when something is new in the market, it gets introduced to every restaurant. You look at the menus and everybody has this thing and this thing. So I like that we have farmers that are growing things just for us.
What kinds of things are those? I try to introduce some unusual fruits and vegetables that are new for Columbus. The farmers come to me with their seed magazines and we go through and decide what they should plant. We’ve done the cardoon, it’s a cross between an artichoke and celery. And I just talked to one of my farmers about crosne, which grows like a potato underground and has the skin of a potato, but it’s a tiny, tiny spiral. It will be available for me in the fall for the first time—and he doesn’t have enough for anyone else!
How often does the menu change at the Refectory? The menu changes four times a year, with the season. On top of that we are constantly doing wine tastings and special menus. Every first Friday we’re doing a special menu that’s paying homage to a famous chef.
What inspires your dishes? I always try to stay with the season, with what’s available. I like to look at outside and in nature. I’ll be walking my dog and I see a duck, and a frog sitting next to the duck. My thought is if they’re sharing the outdoors, maybe they should be sharing a plate!
The Refectory 1092 Bethel Rd., Columbus, OH 43220 614-451-9774 therefectoryrestaurant.com