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Former educators open Kitchen 452 in Walnut Hills

Kitchen 452’s small dining room only holds six tables, but the restaurant is going to pack a big punch. Its menu is full of comfort food, such as sandwiches and soups, all delivered with fun twists.
 
Kitchen 452 will open from 6 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 25 during Walk on Woodburn, but the restaurant’s official grand opening is Feb. 1, when it will begin its regular lunch hours, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
 
Jen Lile, 39, and her business partner, Leah Joos, 29, began looking for restaurant space last May. Neither went to culinary school—they were academic advisors at the University of Cincinnati’s honors college, and through helping their students follow their dreams, they realized what their own was.
 
“After doing some research, we found out about SpringBoard Cincinnati,” says Joos. “We enrolled in courses there, then found the space on Woodburn, solidifying our idea.”
 
Joos’ interest in food started in her grandmother’s kitchen. She and her sister considered it a playground, and their grandmother let them make whatever they wanted.
 
But she didn’t really start cooking until graduate school. “I wasn’t good at it, but it gave me a good sense of focus and a creative outlet when my brain was drained,” she says.
 
Lile spent time in Europe and saw a difference between how food was appreciated and prepared that she didn’t see in the United States. When she came back, her idea of food changed and she became interested in learning about food. “Before my trip to Europe, I considered boiling water cooking,” she says. “My kitchen became the space where I really wanted to be.”
 
Joos and Lile designed Kitchen 452’s menu around traditional comfort food. “We like to play around with different flavors and try different flavor combinations together,” says Lile.
 
For example, their turkey sandwich is on bread fresh from the bakery, with a cranberry and orange chutney, which is balanced with crispy shallots on top; Kitchen 452’s tomato soup is topped with a parsley and garlic gremolata. Joos and Lile also wanted to focus on foods that feel like the seasons, so when it’s dark and wintry outside, there will be warm and hearty dishes on their menu.
 
“We want people to feel like they matter,” says Joos. “We want to get to know our customers, because we know that people make a decision when they go out to eat, and we want them to choose Kitchen 452 and keep coming back.”
 
Joos and Lile want to do things that can connect them with people on different levels as well. They plan to offer themed dinners at Kitchen 452, and possibly offer educational classes. One of their ideas is an oil and vinegar tasting that will teach customers how to incorporate different oils and vinegars into dishes they cook on a daily basis.
 
Kitchen 452 will also offer catering for business meetings and special events, with menus tailored to customers’ needs.
 
“It’s exciting for us and for our customers to try out different recipes that aren’t necessarily on our menu,” says Lile. “We want to help create custom menus and be part of important events in other people’s lives.”
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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