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Spotlight on Midway: Holly Hill Inn adds a personal touch for their visitors

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Posted at 7:00 PM, Feb 23, 2023

MIDWAY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The City of Midway is a gem that sits between Louisville and Lexington. It's been described as quaint and simple, but there's nothing simple about what you'll discover there.

Holly Hill Inn was built in 1845 and then rebuilt after a fire. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it's been a restaurant since 1979.

That didn't change when the current owners bought it, but this place certainly changed their lives.

Before the Holly Hill Inn, in the late 1990s, Ouita and Chris Michel owned a restaurant in Lexington and then met the man who owned Holly Hill. It had been in Bob Rouse's family since 1900.

Within six months, negotiations started, and by January 2001, Ouita and Chris got the keys to her dream project.

"I feel like our farming community is second to none," said Chef Ouita Michel. "And this location to me, felt like, it put me right in the middle of that farming community."

For the Michels, the decision to keep the Holly Hill Inn tradition alive was easy, even if the work was not.

"The house, we gutted it essentially, I mean we didn't have hardly any money," she said. "This kitchen you are standing in, we took it down to the dirt floor."

Chef Michel showed me around the place, and I loved all the details that make Holly Hill feel like a home. More than personal touches, Chef Michel put part of herself into the restaurant, including her late mother's artwork in one of the dining rooms.

And upstairs, you can dine in what's now her father's art gallery.

"His work is fabulous. And he was always kind of a carpenter, making our toys and furniture and that kind of thing," Chef Michel said. "And it's really special to me to have my mom's work here and my father's work."

Chef Michel's work, having gained national awards and acclaim, is about more than just food. It's about hospitality.

"There's so much in the world that divides us, and as Kentuckians, we may have a lot of different perspectives and opinions on a lot of different things, but we can all agree on cornbread," she said.

Chef Ouita Michel was recently appointed to American Culinary Corps, joining a network of more than 80 of the United States' most influential chefs and culinary professionals.