Fired up over fresh food

While “farm to fork” has become a buzz phrase in today’s restaurant industry, Kent Welsh is as passionate about the concept as if it were new.

Impressive Canton Club chef has big plans for expansive farm-to-fork restaurant in Green

While “farm to fork” has become a buzz phrase in today’s restaurant industry, Kent Welsh is as passionate about the concept as if it were new.

“The last four or five years, it’s been around; and like “artisan” or “natural” it’s become an over-marketed word,” Welsh said. “It starts to get watered down.”

Welsh, consulting chef at the Canton Club, previously owned Table, a small farm-to-fork restaurant in Millersburg.

kent_tour“We have a farm in Holmes County where we grew everything for the restaurant,” Welsh said. “But we wanted a property where we could have the restaurant and farm all at one place — and we found that in Green.”

The new location, which also will be named Table, is scheduled to open in May.

“There’s 11 acres and a 16,000-square-foot building,” Welsh said. “It’s gorgeous — back in the woods, way off the road. Gives you that feeling you’re away at a ranch in Montana or someplace.”

But Welsh plans more than a restaurant. He wants the Green site to offer cooking classes, gardening workshops, a banquet center — and even a school for at-risk kids.

Sound like a dream?

Welsh should know. He has, by most accounts, already lived the dream. His résumé reads like a fantasy. He catered Julia Child’s birthday party and Emmy and Grammy award celebrations. He has worked with Wolfgang Puck, and opened hotels for the Ritz Carlton in Europe and Asia.

So how did this accomplished 37-year-old end up in Northeast Ohio?

This is where he started. Welsh graduated from Jackson High School, then from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, where, he jokes, the snow is measured in feet rather than inches.

Three years ago, he came home to visit his ailing mother. He went for a drive in Amish country, as his family often did when he was young. He drove by a farm for sale with two houses on the property.

“I thought, ‘I could live in one, and my parents in the other.’ I stopped and bought the farm! That’s so contrary to my normal personality. I’m usually so thought-out,” Welsh said. “I went back to work and gave notice.”

He worked for a while at the Inn at Honey Run, where he met his wife, Saren, who will be his partner at Table. Although he is working on his plans for Green, he will continue as consulting executive chef at the Canton Club until May.

During his tenure at the Canton Club, Welsh added lunch hours on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and introduced cooking classes, all of which have sold out. His campaign is to convince his students to find the joy in cooking.

“The most expensive room in new-home construction is the kitchen, and it’s the leastused room in the U.S.,” Welsh said. “Cookbooks outsold any other type of book for the third year in a row — but they are the most-read and least-applied books.”

Welsh said his menu at Table will be seasonal. Welsh’s signature dishes, such as his tomato basil soup, always rely on the freshest ingredients, picked locally, he said.

“My philosophy is, if you have a good product, you’ll have a good plate,” he said. “We’ll let the seasons dictate our schedule, what we’re serving. It simplifies things.”