9 Dayton chefs we're excited about in 2022

·7 min read

Jan. 21—As the city known for innovation, it's no surprise Dayton's culinary talent pool is par to none.

Despite worldwide supply chain shortages, ever-changing COVID restrictions for restaurants and more, local chefs have not dimmed their passions for elevating Dayton's dining scene.

There is a lot to be excited about this year in the food and dining community — new restaurants and dining concepts, collaborations between local restaurants, and motivated, rising stars in the industry who call Dayton home.

Here are the nine Dayton chefs we're looking forward to watching throughout 2022:

Who: Chef Erica Roby

What: Owner at Blue Smoke Blaire Roadside food truck

Where: East Third Street in Dayton (Opening date TBD)

Why to watch:

Starting the list of this year's Dayton chefs to watch is Dayton's own Food Network champion, Erica Roby. In August, Roby was crowned "Master of 'Cue" when she won the second season of "BBQ Crawl."

After the finale and as the reigning Master of 'Cue, Roby filmed a digital series for Food Network from her home in Yellow Springs. The series has wrapped, but Roby has stayed busy filming her own YouTube series, "Blue Smoke Blaire's BBQ."

In 2022, Daytonians will finally get a taste of Roby's award-winning BBQ when the Blue Smoke Blaire Roadside food truck opens in March, roadside on East Third Street. Until then, Roby's sauces like Blue Smoke Blair's Sweet & Smoky Sauce ($7.99) and Blue's Down Home Carolina Style BBQ Sauce ($7.99) are available on her website at bluesmokeblaire.com.

"I became a pitmaster to help bring my dad's dream of a down home barbecue restaurant to fruition," Roby said. "During my journey, I also realized I can make others happy and put a smile on their faces with good food! Becoming a pitmaster gave me happiness all around."

Who: Chef Isiah Davis

What: Owner of The Cookieologist

Where: 1106 Brown St., Dayton (the Butter Café carryout window)

Why to watch:

Isiah Davis has prepared gourmet meals for thousands on a Hawaiian cruise ship and helped lead the kitchen at a fine-dining restaurant in Columbus. Even so, since June 2020, he has been working to take over the fresh-baked cookie market in his hometown.

Davis, nicknamed "The Cookieologist," is preparing to open his second location inside the yet-to-reopen Chicken Head's at 865 North Main St. in Dayton.

Davis has big plans for the future of his gourmet, fresh-baked cookie business. He said he wants his cookies to someday be a household name in Dayton.

"It's quite a feeling to be able to see joy on someone's face when they put a hot, fresh-baked cookie in their mouth, or when they meet me at the window for their box of hot cookies," Davis said, "They are always so excited. It's my contribution and it's one of the things I love to do."

Who: Chef James Burton

What: Chef and partner at The Pizza Bandit

Where: 700 E 4th St., Dayton

Why to watch:

A pizza connoisseur would be hard-pressed to find pies more ambitious or original than those created by Pizza Bandit's head chef, James Burton. He's made the pizza truck — and soon to be permanent pizza kitchen inside the Yellow Cab Tavern — into a beacon of flavor creativity.

Since opening as a mainstay outside of Yellow Cab Tavern in September 2019, Burton has continuously raised his own bar in the truck's kitchen ― coming up with new pizza flavors weekly like Chili Cheese Fry Pie and Blind Bob's Pickle Soup Pizza.

As Chef Burton keeps the pies flying out of the truck, his latest project, craft soda company Rock, Paper, Soda Co., is just getting off the ground. Burton and his co-founders said they're going to start off by offering their unique soda creations at local holiday events before starting a wider distribution and collaborative campaign with local bars and restaurants.

Daytonians can expect to see the soda more widely available for purchase around town within the next three months.

"While it's super tough living through all this, and with things constantly changing, one thing stays consistent and that's love," Burton said. "We get so much positive love from our guests, friends, family, community, peers — it would be nearly impossible not to stay positive."

Who: Chef Zackary Weiner and Chef Brendon Miller

What: Culinary leadership team at Jollity

Where: 127 E 3rd St., Dayton

Why to watch:

In less than a year in business, Chef Zackary Weiner and Executive Chef Brendon Miller have made Jollity's menu a hot commodity in the Fire Block's District. The restaurant opened in May 2021, and by August, launched a brunch service that regularly gets fully booked.

The menu changes weekly with Chefs Miller and Weiner coordinating with local farmers and testing dishes one to two weeks in advance.

"We opened May of 2021, which was a crazy time, but we never looked back and never slowed down," Weiner said. "We joke all the time that the lease is signed for nine more years, so we have to get through it no matter what it takes."

Currently, the restaurant is preparing an entirely new cocktail menu that will go live in early February.

Who: Chef Maria Walusis

What: Executive chef and co-owner at Watermark Restaurant

Where: 20 S 1st St., Miamisburg

Why to watch:

Chef Maria Walusis and her husband and partner at Watermark, Eric Walusis, have prevailed through the challenges COVID has presented. In September 2021, Watermark launched its second restaurant concept, Backwater Voodoo.

"Things have been going very well!," Maria said. "As the Dayton area's only Tiki lounge as well as the only spot for a full menu of authentic New Orleans food, we are very proud of the new venue."

The Walusis's also built-out a shared patio space between Watermark and Backwater Voodoo. In 2022, Chef Maria said more enhancements and an expansion of the outdoor dining space is in the works.

Chef Maria has shown no signs of slowing down as she enters 2022. In fact, she finished 2021 as one of the honorees for the Women in Business Network's annual "Women of Impact" for 2021.

Who: Chef Dane Shipp

What: Private dinners, catering and pop-up chef

Why to watch:

Dane Shipp's reputation for creating delicious Dayton grub has been steadily growing since 2017. The former executive chef at Lock 27 now works for himself doing catering and consulting.

Shipp particularly specializes in vegan cuisine and frequents pop-up events across the downtown dining scene. His momentum continues to build into 2022, and plans are in the works of opening his own space inside a market.

"I'm most proud of taking a risk (and) chance on myself!," Shipp said. "It's scary to start your own business, but Dayton has supported me so much."

Who: Chef Elizabeth (Liz) Valenti

What: Executive chef and partner at Wheat Penny Oven and Bar

Where: 515 Wayne Ave., Dayton

Why to watch:

Chef Liz has been a standout in the Dayton dining community for years, but Valenti's attitude throughout the ongoing pandemic has made her a chef we're excited to watch in 2022.

"Maintaining my positive outlook and allowing the simple joys of life and work to keep me grateful for all the amazing people that make up our Miami Valley independent community of incredible chefs and loyal customers," Valenti said.

Last July, Valenti was one of 12 Ohio Restaurant Association's Industry Award Winners for 2021. She was honored with the "Nourishing the Community Award" in a virtual award ceremony held Wednesday, July 14.

The Industry Awards Celebration spotlights top leaders and professionals of Ohio's restaurant, food service and hospitality industry. According to the ORA, the awards honor their dedication, excellence and service to their peers, communities and beyond.

Who: Chef Gerald Richardson

What: Chef and co-owner at Rich Taste Catering

Where: (Office) 31 S. Main Street

Why to watch:

Chef Gerald Richardson launched Rich Taste Catering in 2015 with his wife and business partner Clarece Richardson. The business has steadily picked-up steam and in 2022, the catering duo is expanding its operations across the Dayton region.

"We have recently signed contracts with Dayton's largest event venues," Richardson said. "This grants us the opportunity to work with more clients as well as introduce our loyal customers to new spaces. We are also almost 6 months in to our partnership with the Innovation Hub managing StartUp Grounds Coffee shop."

Last year, Rich Taste Catering was named the Dayton 2021 Minority Business of the Year and honored to be highlighted on the Greater West Dayton Incubators Entrepreneurial Wall of Excellence.

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