Chef’s Touch

Hermitage Farm’s Barn8 chef brings her own style to job

Alison Settle studied culinary arts at Sullivan University

GOSHEN, Ky. (July 2020) – Kentucky native Alison Settle was singled out among many other chefs across the country to head the culinary options for Hermitage Farm’s new Barn8 Restaurant. Hermitage co-owner and preservationist Steve Wilson knew she was the perfect choice after watching her cook at a previous job.
Settle, 34, said “Barn8 was pitched to me by one of our owners, Steve Wilson. I was familiar with his work and reputation, and knew that with him at the helm, an agritourism project would be nothing less than stellar.”

Photo provided

Barn8 chef Alison Settle has found her niche directing the Farm-to-Table culinary program at Hermitage Farm.

She knew that Hermitage Farm “is also about focusing on principles like seasonality and sustainability, which are very important to me. It was a natural choice to move into this role.”
The new restaurant will use farm-to-table practices to provide a unique dining experience for visitors. “Our farm isn’t currently certified organic, but our horticulture team is using organic practices. They are incredibly educated individuals and are always experimenting with ways to safely control pests, amend soil, etc. We are excited to see this first year of growing and what we’ll learn about our environment at Hermitage,” Settle said.
“Barn8 will be one of the most unique farm-to-table dining experiences in America today,” said Wilson in a recent press release. “Reminiscent of Kentucky bank barns like those on the farms my wife, Laura Lee, and I grew up on, Barn8 is inspired by our lifestyle and passion for preserving farmlands. We are hopeful that a meal at Barn8 will help visitors understand how important it is to preserve our rural heritage.”
Originally, the barn was building No. 8 of Hermitage Farm’s historic horse stables and has since been converted into dining space and a bourbon lounge. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, plans to open the restaurant and unveil additional renovations on March 18 were postponed. Visitors are encouraged to visit the farm’s website for details on an opening date, since a definite date has not been set at this time.
When the time does come, offerings will include “a restaurant, a retail store and a farm store, a hefty bourbon collection, an event space in the hayloft of Barn8 and multiple historic, thoroughbred and bourbon related tours,” she said. When this happens, she will definitely have her hands full, since she is also mother to a 31/2-year old son, Arlo.
Settle said she is excited by all of the distinctive culinary prospects her new job brings with it – the possibilities are almost overwhelming. She will be able to “make the final calls on what will end up on the menu or in our store; however, I have an incredibly talented team who have a heavy influence on the direction our dishes go. I am very lucky to be working with people with so much knowledge and rich backgrounds of experience that all come together for the betterment of our food.”
She attended Sullivan University’s culinary arts program through both the Lexington and Louisville campuses, graduating in 2013. Settle then moved on to the hands-on aspect, getting her start at Holly Hill Inn and Woodford Reserve “under the wonderful Ouita Michel. After moving to Louisville, I worked at Holy Grale, gralehaus, Portage House, Lupo, and Red Hog.”
While serving as executive chef at the latter restaurant, located on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, she met Wilson, who dropped in to observe her style. He decided she should be the executive chef for Barn8 Restaurant. She considers Hermitage Farm owners Laura Lee Brown and Wilson as visionaries, trying to promote the best Kentucky has to offer.
As to chefs she admires, Ouita Michel is at the top of the list and was “a huge role model for me. She has such depth of knowledge and skill on so many levels. She’s a powerhouse. Food is but one of her creative strengths. Business, hospitality and management are all strong suits of hers, and I’ve always looked up to her for teaching me that cooking cannot be your one strength in order to go far in this field. If all you can do is cook, then all you will ever be is a cook. If you want to be a successful chef, there are a multitude of other skills to hone.”
Settle’s fascination with cooking began at an early age. “I think as an adult, what brought me to a place where I realized I loved to cook was cooking daily for a large family as an au pair. I began getting that positive feedback from them first, which gave me confidence that I had some amount of talent. I started learning and growing into food then, gradually as a hobby and eventually into school and then my career.”
Even though the public will have to wait a little longer to experience her creations, the best part of her job so far has been “how much knowledge I’ve gained through the creation of an operation of this size. Learning and being stimulated by my work is so very valuable to me, and Barn8 has brought no shortage of opportunities for those endeavors,” she said.
Without public feedback from Barn8 visitors yet, Settle said she doesn’t think she has a signature dish. But there were “a few that seemed to really take off when I was the chef at Red Hog. I’m very excited to open Barn8 and find out what dishes people enjoy the most.”
She said one of her favorite things about cooking in restaurants is “the direct and immediate gratification of someone telling you, in between bites of your creation, how much they love it. It’s true joy.”

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