Karen Small is the chef/owner of The Flying Fig, which she opened in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood in 1999. A self-taught chef, she was a strong supporter of local farms and farm-to-table advocate long before it became de rigueur. In 2010 she opened Market at the Fig, a space for artisanal sandwiches, local food products, eclectic wines and grab and go. Small and her restaurant have been featured in Food & Wine and the New York Times.
1. Salt, olive oil, lemon zest and local honey. Salt and olive oil are simply indispensable. The zest and the honey are great for balancing so many dishes from sweet to savory.
2. Microplanes. I have two sizes and use them for citrus zests, hard cheeses, ginger, garlic and frozen butter for pastry. They are super useful.
3. My crew. Several people keep the Fig running smoothly—Mike, Pat and Tony, to name a few, but a special shoutout goes to Bruce Thompkins, who has run the dish line for 16 years. He’s reliable, a little cranky and knows every nook and cranny of the restaurant.
4. Cookbooks. I have two favorites: the late Judy Rodgers’s Zuni Café Cookbook, which is brilliant; and Nancy Silverton’s Breads from La Brea Bakery. It was my first introduction to wild yeast fermentation. I built my sourdough starter on her recipe almost 30 years ago, and we still use it today.
5. I drink water all day long, but after work I love a hoppy West Coast IPA or a beautifully balanced rye Manhattan from my talented bartender, Ritech.