Ouita Michel, Owner
Since 2001, when Ouita Michel and her husband, Chris, opened the Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Ky., she has made locally grown ingredients a priority in her world-class cuisine. Michel’s restaurants have purchased almost $3 million of Kentucky-grown meats, dairy and produce. She was a James Beard Foundation Award nominee as Outstanding Restaurateur, and Best Chef in the Southeast. Michel and her restaurants are regularly featured in media such as The New York Times, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Food Network and Cooking Channel.
Ouita Michel is a member of Slow Food USA; Les Dames d’Escoffier; community supper coordinator for Midway Christian Church; board member of FoodChain, a non-profit food incubator in Lexington, Ky.; and Hindman Settlement School, which is dedicated to enriching Appalachian culture. She is a member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a statewide citizens group. Michel is an alumna of the James Beard Chefs Boot Camp, for chefs who work to improve the world’s food systems. Honors include the Fayette Alliance Agricultural Excellence Award and Bluegrass Tomorrow’s most prestigious honor, the Josephine Abercrombie Award, given to a person who improves the quality of life in the Bluegrass. Ouita, Chris and their daughter, Willa, live in Midway.
Frank Bickel, General Manager
Frank’s food service career began in 1976 working for his uncle and cousin at the neon-marked house of cheap eats Burger and Shake on New Circle Road in Lexington.
“I was ready to make fries or shakes, but my uncle pointed me to the garbage can. ‘Can’t do anything on the inside unless you can keep the outside clean,’ he said.”
In August 1983, the avid sports fan moved to Los Angeles to be near the 1984 Olympic Games. While there, Frank worked several food-service jobs on the West Coast, including a gig with a cousin’s catering business. Cheers Catering provided food for awards shows and movie premieres such as Black Hawk Down, Snow Dogs and the Country Music Awards.
After a career in the textbook industry, Frank joined Ouita Michel’s team in 2010 as manager of the newly opened Windy Corner. Smithtown Seafood on West Sixth was added to Frank’s roster, and now he manages exclusively both Smithtown locations.
Customers who want to talk sports should introduce themselves to Frank. A fan of all sports, he favors the NFL, track and field and the University of Kentucky. He’s a horse racing fan and has been to numerous Kentucky Derbys and visited many of the nation’s storied tracks, including Arlington, Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Saratoga. He’s not just a spectator. “I also like to throw a ball, swim, dive, shoot hoops — I like the play time,” Frank said.
Frank and his wife, Annette, live in Lexington with their children, Gracie and Charlie.
Ann Daugherty, General Manager
Ann has made a career of helping people and working for Ouita Michel’s team hasn’t been any different.
“I am proud to be part of a restaurant family that celebrates and supports local farmers and producers,” Ann says. “I enjoy being a local food and agriculture ambassador, and at Smithtown Seafood at West Sixth I get to introduce guests to Food Chain, the non-profit aquaponics farm adjacent to our location.”
Ann says a love of good food got her into restaurants. She has worked at several Lexington restaurants. She first worked for Ouita’s team at Wallace Station a few years ago and returned to the restaurant family in 2016.
In her career, Ann has worked in banking, retail management, at a rehabilitation hospital for spinal cord injuries, and at a theatrical supply and prop house.
The Atlanta native graduated from Centre College and has worked toward a master’s degree in Agronomy at the University of Kentucky.
John Granville, Chef at Smithtown at The Summit
John Granville has been working in the food industry since he was 14 years old, and he credits his love of food and cooking to his mother and grandmother.
“My mother and grandmother always cooked for the family on Sundays and during the holidays which inspired my joy in cooking,” he says. “From fast food to fine dining I have experienced them all. I have worked in factories and sales but I always found myself back in the comforts of a kitchen doing what I love.”
Besides learning at home with his mother and grandmother, the Lexington native says most of his training has come from the restaurant jobs that he has worked over time. He joined Ouita Michel’s team four years ago.
“I enjoy working at Smithtown Seafood because of its community connection where I live and the interaction with the customers,” John says. “I have been working for Smithtown since it opened and it has become a second family to me.
“There's no better to way to live than loving what you do at work.”
Paul Hieb, Chef at Smithtown Seafood at West Sixth St.
Smithtown Seafood Chef Paul Hieb swapped out paintbrushes for chef’s knives shortly after he graduated from Murray State with a degree in Studio Arts.
“I realized I was wanting to cook more than make art,” Paul says. So he switched gears.
He studied culinary arts at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island, started working for Chef Wayne Gibson at Angel’s restaurant and fell in love with cooking. He named his second son Gibson in honor of the chef.
“I love to cook because I feel a connection to it, like when I was painting,” Paul says. “It is immediate, it is never the same, and you can create something new every day.”
He went to New York where he worked at Rihga Royal Hotel, Home Restaurant, An American Place and the Victory Kitchen, all while trying to expand his knowledge of American food. He later earned a 50-hour certification from the Quillisascut School of Sustainability and Domestic Arts in Washington and spent 10 years working in Round Rock, Texas, before moving back to Kentucky to be closer to family.
Paul started working for Ouita Michel in 2013 at Glenn’s Creek Café. He says he loves working at Smithtown because he loves seafood, loves cooking with local ingredients and he has a lot of fun with his coworkers.
“There are many moving parts to this establishment and never a dull moment,” Paul says. “I am like a kid in a candy store, every day.”
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY
OF OUITA MICHEL RESTAURANTS
Visit ouitamichel.com to learn more about the Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants, or click any of the links below to view that restaurant's website.