West Virginia offers the right ingredient for those craving a taste of home.
For culinary artists like Cathy Fout, finding the perfect place to call home is like finding the perfect recipe. Born and raised in Fayette County, Fout found her place as a chef in the Mountain State. She showed an interest in cooking at an early age. “I would love to bake with my Easy-Bake Oven,” she said. “My mother was cooking for the family all the time. As children we would get recruited to help out with family meals.”
One of her fondest memories of growing up in West Virginia is riding in the back of her dad’s pick-up to go blackberry picking and using those berries to make cobblers and jelly.
Pursuing her culinary career, Chef Fout left West Virginia in 1982 to work in the restaurant industry in states including Florida and Indiana. In 2006, she returned to the state to be with her family. “It seemed natural to come back to West Virginia,” Fout said.
As food and beverage director of Chief Logan Lodge and Conference Center in Logan County, she takes great care in the food she prepares. “My inspiration for cooking comes from the happiness of others enjoying their food,” she said. The lodge restaurant serves numerous diners each year with food reminiscent of home.
Another culinary artist who found the right recipe to a happy life is Chef Nemat Odeh. Originally from Frankfurt, Germany, he now calls the Mountain State home. He was first introduced to West Virginia when his wife Barbara brought him here for a family reunion. “West Virginia has a very home-like atmosphere where everybody is part of one big family,” he said.
His culinary journey has led him to many places like Switzerland, New York and Las Vegas before coming to West Virginia to serve as executive chef at Canaan Valley Resort.
Chef Odeh combines his international culinary experience with West Virginia’s regional cuisine. “I change the menu according to the season here,” he said. “I also use local produce and organic meats in my dishes to help support the local farmers.”
In addition to his duties as executive chef, he teaches classes known as the “Culinary University.” “It’s a really good opportunity to get involved with the local community,” he said. He is currently working on his second cook book, which includes recipes and a personal account of his life.
When he’s not in the kitchen, one of his favorite places to be is standing in front of his house in Riverton where he can look ahead and see mountains on either side of him. “It looks like a picture,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. This is where I would like to spend the rest of my life.”