Sit down at the bar at Salazar and you’ll find yourself staring into a jar of what in most cases would have been tossed to wayside: a variety of “ugly” (aka not perfectly shaped) vegetables that have been lovingly pickled by Chef Andy Hiner. This young and extremely talented chef de cuisine worked under the wing of founder Jose Salazar until the opening of Salazar’s second restaurant, Mita’s, where Salazar spends the majority of his time now.
The intimate restaurant in Over-the-Rhine has been designed to allow the type of cooking that is the embodiment of the Slow Food principles of good, clean, and fair. Everything that could possibly be sourced locally is, and Salazar’s long relationships with farmers provide him with inspiration while also allowing him to understand what is possible on the production end. What is exciting about this relationship is that the kitchen at Salazar could easily be the kitchen of a farmer – not in terms of scale and equipment, of course, but in terms of how the ingredients are handled. In the farmer’s kitchen, every last edible scrap is used, down to the carrot tops and bones that go in the stock. When there is bounty in the fields in summer, it is preserved to be enjoyed in winter. When the last jar of tomatoes is opened, that is the last tomato you see until the season comes round again. And just because the arugula has flowered doesn’t mean you can’t still eat it – and the flowers too.
The impetus driving Salazar to source and cook in such a way is an understanding of
the deep connection between our food and our ecosystem. According the chef, “Locally sourcing sustainable product is the only way to sustain a natural ecosystem in our area … I feel that showcasing the resources we have locally is the most important thing in food for many reasons.” The absolutely excellent quality of the ever-changing dishes at the restaurant supports another of Salazar’s beliefs: “…happy animals make great tasting food, and happy people cook good food … Treat others, and produce and livestock, as you wish to be treated and good things will come.”
Salazar is located at 1401 Republic Street, Cincinnati 45202