Title: Executive chef at The Metropol, 307 West Short Street.
Personal: Age 42; single.
Family: Daughter Peyton.
Culinary training: Sullivan University in Louisville.
Experience: "As a student I worked for chef Michael Hamsley at the Louisville Country Club. Upon returning to Lexington, I learned to cook Cajun cuisine at Chuck's Jazz Café under chef Chuck Battle. After the Jazz Café closed, I worked at Giuseppe's and developed a deep appreciation for Italian cuisine."
After Guiseppe's, Wilhoit was head chef at Champions Golf Course. A friend of the family, Dr. John A. Schremly III, asked him to direct the opening of The Metropol in 2002. Wilhoit stayed for three years, until after the birth of his daughter when he decided to pursue a "more lucrative job" and became a truck driver.
"I wanted to see the country and thought it might be fun," he said. "There were a lot of interesting places to eat, and it made me realize how much I missed being a chef and my passion for cooking."
After traveling for four years, Wilhoit came back to Lexington, worked at Giuseppe's until February, then returned to The Metropol as executive chef.
The skills he acquired: "At the Louisville Country Club I mastered the art of making sauces. Under the supervision of chef Hamsley, I learned how to make a fantastic gumbo. Guiseppe's taught me how to appreciate and cook fine Italian cuisine. I learned how to plan for and prepare food for large gatherings at the Champions."
His inspiration: "My mom was such a wonderful cook, she made me want to be a wonderful cook. I had many opportunities to watch my mother cook, but it was her domain and she did not want anyone to interfere with cooking.
"Every Sunday, my brothers' and sisters' families (all five sisters and two brothers) would congregate at my parents' home to enjoy my mother's cooking. One of my preferred meals was her fried chicken. Although my mother has passed, we continue this tradition at my father's home with potluck meals."
The return to Metropol: "I am allowed to be as creative as I want," he said.
Favorite food: Asian, especially Thai.
Favorite herb: "Cilantro. It tastes so clean and goes with many different foods."
His goal: "Open my own restaurant."
Advice to young people desiring a culinary career: "If you have the passion for food, then cook and cook some more, and do not be hesitant to try the unfamiliar."
Favorite TV cooking show: "Hell's Kitchen. I love chef (Gordon) Ramsay. I find him amusing."
Favorite food magazine: Food & Wine.
Favorite cookbook author: Anthony Bourdain.
Dream place to cook: "At home with close family and friends with the finest ingredients with no cost restrictions."
One of his favorite recipes: Chicken flavored with saffron and lavender.
1 cup white wine
1 shallot, thinly sliced
Pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole chicken breasts, split into four pieces
Chives, grape tomatoes, and fresh lavender, for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a saucepan, combine white wine, shallots, saffron and dried lavender. Bring to a boil and reduce by two-thirds. Add chicken stock and return to a boil.
Whisk cornstarch and water together in a small bowl. Stir into chicken stock and white wine mixture until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat, strain and stir in heavy cream. Set aside and keep warm.
Heat olive oil in skillet until it begins to smoke. Add chicken and sauté until brown on both sides. Place skillet in oven and cook until juices run clear. Ladle sauce onto plate and arrange chicken breasts. Garnish with chives, grape tomatoes, and fresh lavender. Serve with buttered fingerling potatoes and steamed asparagus.