Chef Tim Urbanic of Cafe Cimino Country Inn serves up Appalachian cuisine with a Mediterranean twist.
Chef Tim Urbanic grew up on a horse farm just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He describes the farm as idyllic—from the swing bed his father built for him under an apple tree to the smell of freshly turned earth. “I was in the most beautiful sunshine with a pair of horses and a plow, one foot in the furrow and one foot on dry land. There was nothing more spiritual,” Urbanic says.
In April 1973, Urbanic moved to West Virginia to feed his interest in organic farming. In 1999, he and his wife, Melody, opened Cafe Cimino, an upscale farm-to-table restaurant in Sutton. “I could bring farmhouse elegance to everybody and eat as close to the land as possible,” Urbanic says. While the ingredients he cooked with were local, the dishes were influenced by his Italian-Polish heritage. “The very best of the food I can serve comes from inside me somewhere, and that’s what I want to share with my family and the people I love,” he says. “The intention was to put something great on the table and to show what respect I have for the whole Appalachian culture. If I can share just a tiny piece of that, maybe it would help make things a better world for a few people.” 616 Main Street, Sutton, 304.765.2913, cafeciminocountryinn.com
How did you begin cooking?
Tim Urbanic: I had rheumatic fever when I was very young. I was confined to home. I was always in the kitchen with my mother, my aunts, or my grandmother—the four most influential people in my life. I played with bread dough, cookie dough, sauce, rice right on
the stove, a cut-up potato. I’d taste all the spices. That’s how I started cooking. Every time I cook, I still try to get that taste.
Tell me about your dedication to quality, attention to detail, and commitment to perfection.
Melody Urbanic: [laughs] He can’t do it any other way.
TU: I don’t claim recipes to be my own. I have a deep respect for the people I share those recipes with, so I can’t do any less than perfection. Being a chef is a very giving occupation. If you want to give somebody something, it would have to be the very best. Anything that misses the mark just doesn’t get to the table—for my family or for sale.
MU: It’s all about cooking from the heart. That’s what Tim loves.
Why is the sustainability of West Virginia farms important to you?
MU: Our 20-year history of Cafe Cimino is the cornerstone of it. We feel very strongly about the sustainable economy in general—agriculture, artists, our state. We do anything we can to promote what is great about West Virginia and share it with our customers, to make
people very proud they are contributing to the sustainability of our community and of our state because of the products they buy from us.
What qualities does it take to become an award-winning chef?
TU: You have to have a respect for food that is almost religious and a desire to please people. But most importantly, it’s the people around you, quality people supporting you every minute. You need a good partner in life who helps you and picks you up when you don’t think you’re quite making it. And that just so happened to be Melody for me.
What inspires you?
TU: What’s in the garden is the inspiration. Seventy-five percent of whatever skills I may have are because of the very fact I’ve been able to find good ingredients right here in central West Virginia. I want to wake up everybody’s taste buds with food that’s grown organically and locally. My wife and I have seen parts of the world and found that this little slice of Heaven in the center of Braxton County is still inspirational to us.