Inventor, entrepreneur, and self-taught chef, Steve Schimoler’s career has taken him from Long Island to the Lake Erie shore, always in pursuit of new challenges.
At 23, Steve launched his first Long Island restaurant; within three years, he had three businesses running simultaneously, including Loafers Bakery and Gourmet, The Terrace Too and his flagship restaurant The Black Walnut which received 3 stars from New York Newsday critics, and positioned Schimoler as one of New York’s top toques.
Yet in 1990 Steve sold everything and headed to Vermont to become VP of product development for Cabot Creamery. Steve had invented a process that incorporated liquids into butter and in no time truck loads of intensely flavored butters were being sold across the nation. Then, an accidental discovery led to an invention of a new product (still available today under the name Culinary Cream) which Steve sold to the NutraSweet Company. That, in turn, prompted him to start a Product Development Firm called Right Stuff.
Right Stuff led to a company called Chef Stuff, which found Steve and his chef colleagues (including Todd English, Rick Bayless, David Burke, Douglas Rodriquez, and Nancy Silverton) creating signature menu items that were produced in a state of the art manufacturing facility which Steve designed and built.
Steve’s desire to connect chefs with small regional, artisan producers led to yet another business, Chefex.com, which utilized the nascent power of the internet to distribute artisan ingredients nationally using service partners AMEX and FEDEX.
Steve sold that business to SYSCO, the world largest food distributor, and helped manage its growth as GM of Culinary Business Development.
In 1999, Steve went on to restore a 200-year old grist mill in Vermont and reopen it as The Mist Grill, a cozy haven that immediately earned national acclaim for its inventive, rustic cuisine. (Steve’s cookbook, The Mist Grill: Rustic Cooking from Vermont, still is available in bookstores and on Amazon.com.)
Steve relocated to Cleveland in 2005, as Director of Innovation and Development for Nestle North America and, after completing his term there, decided to remain in the Rock ‘n’ Roll city. His current restaurant venture, Crop Bistro & Bar, opened in the Historic Warehouse District in June 2007.
While Crop was initially imagined as Steve’s test kitchen (the name is an acronym for Customized Restaurant Operations Platform), it quickly grew into one of Cleveland’s premier lunch and dinner destinations, attracting both critical acclaim and a cadre of devoted diners, drawn to Steve’s unique blend of culinary artistry, whimsy, and food-science expertise.
In 2008, Steve also launched Localcrop.com, an online farmers market linking Northeast Ohio’s small farmers and producers with local chefs. In an innovative and timely twist, the market is “powered” by SYSCO, whose refrigerated trucks delivery the goods to local restaurants over already-established routes, thereby conserving fuel and maximizing efficiency. A second market, serving the Central Ohio area, opened in 2009.
A talented drummer and musician, Steve is also the driving force behind Cleveland Food Rocks, a non-profit, grass-roots collaboration of local restaurants aimed at promoting the city’s vibrant food and music scene. Not surprisingly, many Friday nights find him performing at the bistro with his band, Cream of the Crop.
Over the course of his career, Steve has been featured on Food Nation with Bobby Flay and PBS’ Master Chef series, and has been a regular contributor to industry magazine Flavor & the Menu. He has also served two terms as president of the Research Chefs Association, where he remains on the Board of Directors.
While such a long list of accomplishments might satisfy most mortals, Steve remains a sparkplug of creative energy. “Under-promise and over-deliver” has become his motto, and every day he strives to do just that.