Toledo food in its perfectly elemental form
Element 112 is truly a restaurant unlike any other here in Toledo, Ohio. Chef Chris Nixon, a proud St John’s Titan, is a remarkable, gifted chef who never quite expected to return to his hometown. Chef Nixon is the
dishwasher, accountant, server, executive chef and one of the principal owners of Element 112 located at 5737 Main St, Sylvania, Ohio. Here, he brings together pieces of the esteemed restaurants he had the privilege to work at, as well as the four basic elements of earth, wind, fire, and water. With all of this, Chris created Element 112 which opened in October of 2012.
Element perfectly fits the entirety of the restaurant from the atmosphere to the food and even the staff. Both simple and complex, every detail appears to be precise yet the attitude is about not taking oneself too seriously. The meal is about the experience, and the experience is about the customer. From a basic, friendly ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ patrons can expect a seasonally driven, ever changing menu using only food sourced from ethical and the highest quality sources, without the pretentious white tablecloth. The standard is to meet the expectations of the customers.
Guests are asked about dietary restrictions, foods they honestly dislike, and personal preferences when they come to dine at Element. Vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, allergies – all are welcome and treated with the same respect and served the highest quality meal. Chef Nixon says he positions himself in the lovely and immaculate full french-kitchen, in such a way that he can not only see the food going out, but he can also see the plates returning. Each plate is to serve the needs of the person eating it, not to fulfill the pride of the chef creating it. This is why the staff at Element 112 wants you to be honest about your food preferences. They cultivate each dish for you, everything made from scratch, and tailored to your tastebuds. Food is a subjective matter.
Each menu has certain staples: beef, chicken, seafood; but you will rarely find the same item, served the same way twice. We are meant to eat a variety of foods, colors, herbs and spices. Variety isn’t just the spice of life, it is in the natural flow of the seasons and how we were made to eat. Now you can see why there is such a flexibility to the menu, the chefs are used to being flexible with the seasons, and supply. When food is sourced daily from honest, transparent sources supply isn’t perfectly consistent, nor identical from day to day. This too creates the element of uniqueness. Communication is vital and trust is built with the direct suppliers of all the food served at the restaurant. The lamb farmer, and the seafood supplier alike carry the same high ethical standards and communicate the day-by-day changes of their inventory. Supplies are then directly delivered to the restaurant where Chef Nixon butchers his own cuts of meat to accommodate the exact needs of the restaurant.
Year-round you will always find the freshest and nutrient packed herbs at Element 112. The staff master gardener, Gail, may have the freshest room in the house. Several rows of planter boxes and rows of lights keep the garden producing constantly. Soil samples are taken on a regular basis to ensure nutritional quality and the organic waste from the kitchen is reserved for compost, so little to nothing goes to the trash. Chef Nixon says that when he finds a dish is lacking or he feels the need to add an herb, he can go to Gail, describe the taste he wants to create, and she can provide guidance and recommendations, and sometimes a honest little “no.” if his selection is not going to work out.
The staff is also well taken care of. This extended family shares meals everyday before the restaurant opens, giving the team full bellies to meet their nutritional needs as well. A sit down meal gives way for constructive criticism and allowing for changes in the evenings offerings. Each evening the team has a balanced meal, giving them the fuel they need to do their job, and care for the customers, not just given a meal that will weigh them down, making them feel sluggish or leaving them hungry through the evening. They all work very hard, and are also asked to take the proper time away from work to care for themselves and their families.
Everyday, customers have the opportunity to partake in a unique dinner option, the Chef’s Tasting Menu. This generally consists of five courses Monday thru Thursday, and additional offerings on weekend evenings. You may find a L’Apéritif, chilled appetizer (hors d’oeuvre), a hot appetizer (hors d’oeuvre), an entree, intermezzo, cheese and/or dessert, and the optional digetifs. The plates are not large, but with the potential for so many courses, you will leave satisfied. The best measures of a successful offering to their guests: laughter, interactions, and not looking to your phone.
Since we did finally come to the topic of dessert… Elizabeth Gentry, Element 112’s very own pastry chef creates three different dessert options for guests. All made from scratch, in-house, the dessert options are as lovely as they are delicious. I can personally attest to the divine and authentic taste of these French Macarons offered around Valentine’s Day. They are only comparable to the ones we had in Paris.
The resume of Chef Nixon, and many of the other members of the Element 112 body is as impressive as the food they create. Travelling the world, working at world renowned restaurants, such as Noma, Restaurant Magazine’s three time winning “World’s Best Restaurant” in Copenhagen, and Craft owned by Chef Tom Colicchio, Chef Nixon brings something truly exceptional to the Toledo area. Many of them are Toledo and Ohio born and raised, ready to encourage and train up future chefs. Their kindness and their excitement to share their knowledge with the people who enter the restaurant is very awesome, making your time at Element 112 an experience; so much more than just dinner.