One beautiful Sunday morning, Slow Food Cincinnati had the pleasure of sitting down to brunch at the Red Feather and chatting with Chef Brad Bernstein. We spoke about the steps that led to the founding of the restaurant, whose name gets its origin from Bernstein’s family restaurant, The Mike Fink. Mike Fink was an 18th century riverboat character known for the red feather he wore in his hat, indicating he was a marksman not to be meddled with. That feather has become a symbol for Bernstein of what he holds highest – a stamp of approval signifying that which is authentic, artistic, and spirited.
Red Feather Kitchen opened in 2014 in Boca’s old location in Oakley.
Together with General Manager and Sommelier Devon Barrett, Bernstein has created a menu that harks back to a time when the only food that could be served was locally sourced or came via the riverboats Fink worked on – a return to slow food. Says Bernstein, “Sourcing locally grows the local economy and minimizes carbon cost while providing the freshest ingredients with the terroir, taste, and identity of our locale.” The chef cherishes the relationships he has with all of his purveyors, working with them to bring the best product to the Red Feather’s tables. In addition to long-standing relationships with Ed Hill of Hill Family Farm and Sally Krines, one of the original local food suppliers to restaurants, Red Feather has sourced produce through Ohio Valley Food Connection since their opening in 2015, connecting the restaurant with an even broader variety of locally grown fresh herbs and vegetables that shine on the plates next to their wood-fired protein counterparts. For items not available locally, Bernstein does his best to select those that are fair- or direct-trade. All seafood is sourced with an eye to sustainability, for example choosing Sea of Cortez shrimp and ORA King salmon for menu staples.
Bernstein and Barrett’s long experience in the restaurant business, from dishwashers to chef and sommelier, respectively, provide them with an important perspective on fairness behind-the-scenes. It was working together at Zula where they solidified a shared belief that “it is our responsibility to serve [our employees] as much as we serve our customers. We need them more than they need us. The restaurant success is defined by the success of everyone involved.” After learning of the award of the Snail of Approval, the entire staff received a red feather pin to put in their cap.
Red Feather Kitchen is located at 3200 Madison Road, Cincinnati, 45209.