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Long before farm-to-table was considered a restaurant industry standard, Chef Karen Small made the local-focused approach a cornerstone of the Flying Fig's operations.
No wonder the eatery, which Small opened in 1999, remains one of Ohio City's crown jewels. Today, the seasonal menu proudly boasts the "farmers, partners and friends" with which Flying Fig teams up to provide fresh ingredients — a list that includes Yellow House Cheese & Meats, Miller Livestock, Stone Oven Bakery, and Rittman Orchards.
Small's passion for community is also baked into every aspect of her personal life. Raised in Shaker Heights, she found her calling in cooking (and farming) while attending Ohio University.
After leaving school, she and her husband lived in rural southern Ohio on a farmstead. The young family raised animals and canned their own vegetables.
In the early '80s, Small decided to return to the Cleveland area. Lessons at the Western Reserve School of Cooking — as well as stints at the 9th Street Grill in the Galleria and the original Fulton Bar & Grill — eventually led to her owning a bakery called Jezebel's.
Opening The Flying Fig gave Small the chance to pair her deep respect for the land with a Mediterranean-focused menu peppered with dishes such as tagliatelle bolognese and polenta and eggplant caponata.
Being a booster of sustainable agriculture, local growers and artisans — and, of course, Cleveland itself — has made Small somewhat of a local legend.
However, this community immersion has also given her an unparalleled opportunity to be a mentor to countless culinary superstars. In a sweet coincidence, the James Beard Foundation named Small a 2018 semifinalist in the Best Chef in the Great Lakes region category — the same category in which her one-time kitchen compatriot Jill Vedaa, who now co-owns Salt+, was also nominated.
Provides a friendly, yet sophisticated experience in the Ohio City neighborhood. Serving delicious, locally sourced cuisine, innovative cocktails and...