Cincinnati Chefs to Watch in 2020: Ethan Greene

Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

A former sous chef at Abigail Street, Ethan Greene has parlayed his knack for the restaurant’s signature Mediterranean style into portable Middle Eastern street food as executive chef of Forty Thieves in Over-the-Rhine. Under chef-restaurateur Daniel Wright’s tutelage, Greene has grown through experimenting with dishes and events, and he credits his upbringing in the hospitality industry for laying a strong foundation for his current and future successes. We spoke with Greene about why he loves what he does and his career ambitions.

Years in the industry:
10

Signature dish:
“I’m a Southern boy, so I would say jambalaya. But when it comes to Middle Eastern food, which I’ve been doing [at Forty Thieves], we’re pretty well known for our falafel.”

Favorite technique:
Grilling. “It’s very primal. It’s nice to do something people have done for thousands of years before you, and it really hasn’t changed much.”

Most underrated tool in the kitchen:
The spoon. “You literally use it for everything. It doubles as your tool for everything else when you’re in a pinch. I think we all have one in our back pocket for a reason.”

Most underrated skill in the kitchen:
Time management

How do you challenge yourself?
“Setting new goals for myself. Working for Dan [Wright] has been pretty awesome because he pushes us to new standards, constantly taking on new projects or new ways to use the kitchen, whether it’s through catering or through different events around town, different ways we can showcase ourselves rather than just the small dinner service we do every night.”

Where do you find inspiration?
Family. “I grew up in the hospitality industry. We had lot of dinner parties and hosted our friends and family, so it’s nice to take a break from doing all the cooking myself and getting back to my roots of having Mom or Grandma cook dinner.”

Why do you love what you do?
“I love the structure of the kitchen. It takes a lot of dedication. I love the people, too. Working with people and helping them change the course of their lives and careers—it’s not a lot of pay [in this industry], but being such a tight network, we rely on each other a lot. It definitely makes you feel like you’re a part of the community.”

What are your ultimate career ambitions?
“I have a farm out in Lebanon—our family farm. We have slowly been restoring it over the years, bringing in animals and vegetables and getting it working again. Down the road I definitely hope to have my own thing going out there, a brick-and-mortar restaurant.”

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