Todd Kelly�s art deco workspace inspires his modern cuisine.
By Russell Scott, CMC, WGMC
The National Culinary Review | September 2011
WEEKS after receiving the award,
the fact that he’s 2011 U.S.A.’s Chef of
the Year™ is still sinking in for Todd Kelly.
When the award was announced on the
night of the President’s Grand Ball at
the ACF national convention, he was
sharing a table with his wife Emily and
Michel Sheer, general manager at Hilton
Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, where Kelly
is executive chef/F&B director.
“It was a great surprise,” says Kelly. And,
no doubt, a huge relief. He admits that he
didn’t eat much that night. Competing on
Sunday and waiting until Tuesday evening
allowed the anticipation to build, and the
stress was incredible.
A member of ACF Greater Cincinnati
Chapter, Kelly has held his position at Hilton
Cincinnati Netherland Plaza for five years.
The hotel, which opened in 1931, is one of
the world’s finest examples of French art
deco architecture, which makes Kelly truly an
artist working in a work of art. The property
has 561 rooms and four food-and-beverage
outlets. An operation of this size requires a
great deal of planning and organization, and
that experience is what Kelly used to his
advantage to win the Chef of the Year award.
in Long Island, N. Y., he became familiar
with a wide range of foods, yet never gave
cooking professionally a thought. His family
moved to Mauritius, an island nation off the
coast of Africa, and although his new home
revealed the abundance of the sea to Kelly,
it also made him realize that if he wanted
American mainstays such as french fries
and hamburgers made with fresh beef, he
would have to make them himself. And so
began his foray into the culinary field.
If travel and life experience truly make
the best chefs, then it’s appropriate that
Kelly, 35, is U.S.A.’s Chef of the Year. Born
Later, he lived and worked outside
Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh, Charlotte,
N.C., San Francisco and Cincinnati, with
each stop along the way leaving its own
special influence on his food philosophy.
Working in high-end restaurants gave Kelly
an appreciation for seasonal menus and
fresh ingredients, and at Rubicon in San
Francisco, he became familiar with the