Chris and Ouita Michel
Holly Hill Inn is owned and operated by Chris and Ouita Michel. Ouita is Chef, and Chris is host and sommelier. Chris and Ouita are both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America.
About Ouita Michel
Owner and chef
Donna was local before local was cool.
Before coming to work at Holly Hill Inn in 2004, Donna worked at the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort. Donna’s boss at the mansion was Rex Lyons (who was innkeeper at Holly Hill until Ouita and Chris bought it). “I had always been interested in food and cooking and often catered in the Frankfort area, so I was naturally drawn to the kitchen at the mansion. I found myself spending more time downstairs than upstairs and Rex reassigned me to an assistant chef's position, which eventually turned into the associate chef's position.”
At the mansion, Donna was always looking for sources of local foods. Donna had met Ouita just after she opened Holly Hill Inn, and knew of her devotion to using locally grown meats and produce. “Ouita was graciously helpful in sending me to wonderful growers,” Donna said.
The mansion’s kitchen staff was let go en masse during an administration change and Rex was determined to see that his staff all found jobs. “He recommended me to Chris and Ouita and they hired me as dining room manager.”
“I love working at Holly Hill Inn mostly because of Chris and Ouita, who feel like family now, and because of the beautiful food they make and because of our great customers who are so appreciative and supportive of what we do. Community is important to me and that's what we've nurtured over the last several years.”
Donna’s family is originally from Bellevue in Northern Kentucky, but she grew up in Frankfort and graduated from Franklin County High School in 1975. She was a journalism major at the University of Kentucky for three years, then left college to take a management position with Jerrico, parent company of Long John Silver’s, and spent the next 16 years working in restaurant and hotel management until joining the mansion staff during Paul Patton's administration. One of the highlights of her time at the mansion was preparing an all-Kentucky dinner for Princess Anne of Great Britain during her visit to the state.
Donna has been married for more than 30 years to Tom Lowry, and has two grown children, Katie Carney and Patrick Carney. She likes to write, cook, travel and is a proud veteran of the American Lung Association’s Bike Trek to Shakertown.
Roger met Ouita when she was a freshman on the University of Kentucky debate team, which he coached. “After limited high school debating experience, she turned into an outstanding college debater, ultimately winning the National Debate Tournament,” Roger said. “Steve Mancuso, our Wine Guildmaster, was also a great UK debater: He was named the outstanding individual debater at the National Debate Tournament his senior year.”
After Ouita graduated from UK in 1987, Roger followed her cooking career with a great deal of interest. When Ouita and Chris had the opportunity in 2000 to buy the Holly Hill Inn, he became an excited investor.
“Being associated with Holly Hill, as well as with Wallace Station and Windy Corner, has developed my taste buds. Ouita is such a creative and versatile chef that I've learned a great deal sampling a wide variety of dishes and cuisines. Sometimes I think I must be the best-fed person in Kentucky!
“Over the past several years I've also learned a good deal about wine from Steve. I hope I was able to teach Ouita and Steve as much about debate as they've taught me about food and wine.”
After 30 years at UK, in 2010 Roger retired and moved to Midway, where he has become even more involved with the business. “I'm doing something at one or more of the restaurants on a pretty much daily basis. I love Midway and continue to be excited about the many new directions in which our business is moving.”