Sylvania chef seeks to ‘wow’: Element 112 among venues helping kick off Restaurant Week ToledoWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Nixon of Element 112 wants to wow guests with unusual menu items and surprise them with unexpected presentations. But most of all, he wants to give them space to relax and connect.
“One of my favorite things growing up was having dinner with my family at the lake,” said the chef and co-owner of the Sylvania restaurant, which recently marked its first year in business. “You’d get some corn and a good steak on the grill. Everybody sits down, you relax, have a few drinks and before you know it, you’ve talked for three hours. Those were the best dinners and it’s cool when you’re carefree and you can do that.
“In today’s world, that’s kind of forgotten. We eat separately and go on our way and people miss out on other people’s lives because they are going through Facebook instead of talking to them.”
Element 112 will be among the local eateries featured at Restaurant Week Toledo’s Kickoff Party on Feb. 19 at the Secor Building, 425 Jefferson Ave. The kickoff event, sponsored by Hylant, will feature food samples from several Restaurant Week Toledo menus as well as beer and wine tastings. Tickets are $25.
Among the other restaurants to be featured at the kickoff will be Burger Bar 419, Caper’s, ICE Restaurant and Bar, Koreana, La Scola Italian Grill, Poco Piatti, Registry Bistro, Revolution Grille and Rosie’s Italian Grille. The event will also include coffee and desserts from Black Kite Coffee, Plate 21 and The Café at The Oliver House.
The fourth annual Restaurant Week Toledo is set for Feb. 24-March 2. The event, presented by Medical Mutual, will feature dozens of locally owned restaurants, including venues in Toledo, Maumee, Perrysburg, Swanton, Sylvania and more. Each restaurant will feature a special menu priced at $10, $20 or $30. (Drinks, taxes and gratuities are not included unless specified.) A portion of proceeds will benefit two youth programs of Leadership Toledo: Youth Leadership Toledo and Students in Action.
At Element 112, Nixon, 28, who grew up in Sylvania and graduated from St. John’s Jesuit High School, deliberately kept the restaurant small. It seats 44 people in the main dining room and 14 in a private room, which features a glass wall and access to the kitchen to encourage interaction.
Nixon studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and worked at Craft Restaurant in New York City, owned by “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio. He also worked at Noma in Denmark, regularly rated as one of the best restaurants in the world.
While Nixon was working at The BoatHouse Restaurant in Coldwater, Mich., a group of people looking to open a restaurant in Sylvania offered him a job. Nixon said he loves being back in his hometown.
“I was really excited to be back,” Nixon said. “I did not think we would be as busy as we are. I thought the concept was too different and people would not want to come, but it’s been crazy — absolutely crazy.”
The name has several meanings. It’s a reference to Nixon returning “to his element” after cooking around the world. It’s also a reference to his initials: Element 112 on the periodic table is Copernicium, which is abbreviated Cn.
All the food on Element 112’s menu is foraged, farmer-sourced or made in-house.
Nixon and his staff personally forage for mulberries, raspberries, wood sorrel, pine cones, nettles and spruce shoots and more.
“There’s people who talk about doing a seasonal restaurant and it’s once every three months they change their menu,” Nixon said. “We’re seasonal to the day. Our menu alters two to three times a week.”
“When you find something in the woods that day, you’re not fighting seasons, you’re not shipping something in from Mexico, the flavors are bigger and cleaner.
“That’s the thing that’s missing from the modern food world. Mass agriculture makes it possible to get a watermelon any time of the day, any time of the year. It’s different when you force yourself to use it when it’s there and when it’s perfect. When Mother Nature says, ‘This is perfect right now,’ we want that. The menu concept is entirely unique for Toledo. We’re the only ones doing it and we’re seeing the response.”
Element 112 offers an à la carte menu and two chef tasting menus, which range in price from $29-$50. The dining room menu features four “element dishes,” representing earth, fire, air and water.
“They are meant to be an experience,” Nixon said. “When you share courses, everybody has the same thing. There’s a mutual thing to talk about. That’s kind of the idea. We want them to laugh and relax and have something to talk about.”
Element 112 is located at 5735 N. Main St. in Sylvania. Hours are 5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday except for special events.
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