Aimee Plesa is a 34 year industry professional. She started her culinary career at the age of 14 at the K&W in Springboro before moving on to her first management position at Hot Sam’s in the Dayton Mall and eventually the executive chef at Ollie’s Place, kitchen manager at Bargos Grill & Tap and the executive chef at Hammel House Inn Bed & Breakfast. She is a self taught chef who has participated locally in the Dayton Chef Showdown, Bloody Mary Showdown and AleFeast. She is also a food writer for Warren County Online News and Tastes of the Tri-State as well as being the owner of Thyme After Thyme Gourmet.
While she’s been getting ready to open the restaurant at Hammel House in Waynesville, she took a few minutes to answer our 10 question interview:
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Overall, I have to say tomatoes are my favorite ingredient to work with. There are so many ways to use them, the possibilities are virtually endless. My current tomato obsession is working with heirlooms. The flavor is unmatched and I can get lost in the colors as I prep them.
What ingredient do you dread?
I’m not sure “dread” is the right word, but I always flinch a little when I have to work with seafood of any kind. I’m allergic to any water dwelling creature, so I can’t taste any of the recipes I create that use them. I fly by the seat of my pants and rely that my intuition is right when it comes to pairing flavors and textures. And pray to the kitchen gods that my coworkers are completely honest when they taste test.
What’s your favorite dish to make?
Soups! They are so warm and comforting and can make any meal feel a little more special. Plus, they can be a true test of creativity when you’re met with a random assortment of ingredients that need to be used up.
What’s your favorite pig out food?
This is probably the hardest question on this list LOL My favorite pig out food really depends on what kind of mood I’m in and what time of the year it is. Some of my favorites include Taco Bell Doritos los Tacos, DLM Killer Brownies and the peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies from Big Sky Bread Company. Special shoutouts for pumpkin spice lattes, Ghiradelli peppermint chocolate squares and Reese peanut butter eggs.
What restaurant, other than your own do you like to dine at in the Miami Valley?
For Italian food, hands down Mama DiSalvo’s! The Eggplant Parmesan is simply to die for. And nobody beats the chicken tenders at Bargos! Bentino’s 4 cheese pizza also keeps me coming back for more.
What’s your best advice for home chefs?
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Some of the weirdest sounding combinations can be absolutely delicious.
If you could invite any 4 guests to a dinner party who would they be and why?
I don’t need 4 guests to answer this question, I just need one. My father. He passed away when I was 24, well before my culinary career took off, and I would love to have him sample my cooking. One of my happiest memories from my childhood was cooking for him and I think he would be pleasantly surprised at what I can cook now.
If I absolutely had to include 3 more people, I would choose former President Obama because I think it would be a great experience to break bread and share a drink with him; Keanu Reeves because he is the epitome of non-chalant celebrity cool. Number four would have to be a package deal-Neil Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush. They have been my favorite band since I was in grade school for so many reasons.
Who do you look up to in the industry and why?
To be honest, I don’t closely follow the people of the industry-locally, nationally or globally. I loosely follow the trends and local news but I’m not really invested in it as a whole.
What do you do in the Miami Valley on a day off?
I am on the verge of opening a new kitchen, what is a day off? LOL
I love visiting Jungle Jim’s. I can literally spend an hour in the cheese section alone. My close friends Cathy and Megan can confirm this. I also enjoy walking the trails around Caesar’s Creek, shopping for carnival glass in Waynesville and playing music trivia at Heather’s. Scott Hall IS the trivia host with the most. I have also recently accepted a writing position with Warren County Online News, so a good chunk of my free time is spent sharing recipes on there.
Share a kitchen disaster, lucky break or other interesting story:
The biggest “lucky break” I have gotten in this industry led me to my current position at Hammel House. One night I had to work late and open early at my former position, so I just got a hotel room for the night. Once I checked into my room, I opened my Facebook messenger and had a random message pop up. A business owner in Waynesville was asking if I was the Aimee that used to work at Cobblestone Cafe (I was one of two), and if I was that Aimee, the new owners at Hammel House would like to speak with me. I followed up on her message the following morning and through a series of texts, emails, phone calls and in-person meetings, I was offered the job. Jona-thank you!!!