Kristin Smith and Ouita Michel receive Berea College Service Award

Kristin Smith and Ouita Michel receive Berea College Service Award

March 15, 2024

By Paula Keshderian

BEREA, Ky. – Award-winning Kentucky chefs and restaurant owners Kristin Smith and Ouita Michel will be presented with 2024 Berea College Service awards on March 21 during the college’s annual Service Convocation, sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Learning through Service (CELTS). 

The convocation begins at 3 p.m. in Phelps Stokes Chapel.

The Berea College Service Award recognizes individuals who have provided outstanding service to our society in achieving the ideals of Berea’s Great Commitments.  

“This year, Berea College will recognize two phenomenal chefs—Ouita Michel and Kristin Smith, each known for their remarkable culinary skills and for creating restaurants and food-based businesses that have wide-reaching impacts of supporting local and regional farmers, local economies, and women entrepreneurs, sustainable agricultural practices, the diversity of their communities, and Kentucky and Appalachian food cultures,” said Ashley Cochrane, CELTS director. “Each in their own way, they go beyond creating delicious food to also empower, welcome, and celebrate the people and communities where they live and work.”

Smith is the owner and chef at The Wrigley, an Appalachian eatery in Corbin, Kentucky. She encourages sustainable farming practices at The Wrigley and has made the restaurant a safe space for all customers to gather and enjoy the food and culture.

Michel, chef and owner of nine Kentucky restaurants, uses locally grown ingredients and supports local agriculture as a priority in all her restaurants. Michel helps sustain Bluegrass family farms while satisfying customers with fresh and delicious cuisine.

Michel has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award as Outstanding Restaurateur and Best Chef Southeast more than once and is an alumna of the James Beard Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change.  

The dialogue-based convocation entitled “Crowded Table: Kentucky Foodways and Economics” will be led by Berea College faculty member and Kentucky Poet Laureate Silas House. Smith, Michel and House will discuss multiple themes such as the connections between food-based businesses and local economies, food as an expression of culture and strategies for empowering communities through access to quality food.

This convocation is free and open to the public.

About Berea College

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources, primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia, although students come from 45 states and 70 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, where students work at least 10 hours a week to earn money for books, housing, and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.