Local Flavor 7

What it Takes to Get the Seal of Approval From Jag’s Owner & Chef Michelle Brown

She’s a mother, wife and charitable community member. She’s a mentor, coach and leader in her industry. And she just so happens to be right here in our backyard.

Chef Michelle Brown, executive chef and majority owner of Jag’s Steak and Seafood/Piano Bar, is a longtime West Chester resident and Cincinnati native whose passion for cooking has taken her all over the world, but her love for Cincinnati has kept her right here in this community.

Since 2003, Brown has been preparing the delectable plates that guests have come to associate with Jag’s. Brown worked alongside former owner John Allgaier for more than ten years before buying the business in June, 2015. She says while the majority ownership has changed hands, the quality of the brand and entertaining atmosphere of the Union Centre restaurant has not—and neither has the team.

“I’m fortunate enough to have people who are trained in a position who have been there a very long time,” Brown says, smiling. “When you put people in a position where they’re the master of their craft and they’ve been working alongside these people for so long, it’s a very collaborative environment. It’s kind of like a symphony.”

Brown gets an adrenaline rush from the hustle that takes place within the kitchen of Jag’s. Comparing it to a sporting event she says it’s like playing a game every night where the team must lean on each other to work toward a common goal. In her case, the goal is to create “a thoroughly entertaining experience” for the guests.

“To me it’s not just about having a great meal [at Jag’s’]. It’s about pulling up to the [parking] lot, being greeted at the valet, welcomed at the hostess stand, to the service and the food. It’s entertainment to our guests,” Brown says. “That’s our goal with every guest: to put on a show for them and hopefully exceed their expectation.”

Of course, what guests see on their plates is an important piece of the entertaining experience, which is why Brown and her team are constantly creating new features. For a new menu item idea to come to fruition, the staff must agree as a whole on the answer to this question: “Is it badass?”

“That’s our seal of approval. Is it badass?” Brown explains. “If it’s just okay, we keep tweaking it. My kitchen staff, all of them have a desire to cook and eat. They’re all foodies themselves and they all bring different ideas to the table. My goal is to coach them, mentor them, and help them develop these ideas.”

For Brown, mentoring in the kitchen is one of her greatest joys. Even after becoming majority owner of Jag’s, Brown continues coaching in her kitchen. She says it’s important to not only produce top-of-the-line menus at the restaurant, but also to be a good role model for the younger generation coming up through the ranks.

“I have a lot of women in my kitchen. To those young girls and young women, I have to set the example. They see that I have a great marriage, two young kids, but I can still run the restaurant, buy the restaurant and walk away at night and go be a great mother,” Brown says. “It’s important for me to show them that.”

Show them she does. Brown balances a busy schedule alongside her husband, who is General Manager of the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, in order to run the restaurant and raise her children. Prioritizing her family and business is one reason why she has chosen to stay in West Chester with her family. Although she’s had opportunities throughout the country and abroad, Brown finds a sense of calmness and peace in the West Chester community, where she sees her siblings and parents every Sunday.

Brown looks forward to one day growing the business outside its four walls. While no concrete plans are in place, Brown has ideas to create other restaurant concepts under the Jag’s umbrella. However, right now she’s comfortable focusing on offering topnotch entertainment at Jag’s.

“It’s been a long year and a half,” Brown says as she reflects on her new ownership. “It was very, very stressful, but I learned a lot about myself. God only gives you what you can handle, and it was meant to be.”