Michael Koenig joins Food & Wine

Michael Koenig grew up in Michigan but spent most of his professional career in California.

So the latest executive chef of Latitude 41, the creative dining spot in the Columbus Renaissance Hotel, will bring his Midwest sensibilities and West Coast flair to the dishes.

"I don't like to manipulate the food," said Koenig, 41. "I like the natural flavors to come out."

In other words, he likes simple, earthy food that's not overly fussy.

"You will not see a foam on my menu," he said.

Instead, customers will get a taste of Benton bacon popcorn, organic beet salad with a goat cheese vinaigrette and Greek yogurt panna cotta.

The popular truffle mac 'n' cheese will remain on the menu.

Koenig will take advantage of the rooftop patio, which supplies the restaurant with fresh herbs and produce during the summer months.

He sees Columbus as an emerging restaurant town with impressive microbrews.

"I'm excited to come back here," he said of the Midwest. "In San Francisco, we were always chasing the latest trend and ingredients, and it's always changing."

Koenig, who studied chemistry at Michigan State University, said he's working on a summer menu that will offer lighter seasonal fare, including seared scallops served with saffron-accented cauliflower couscous and garnished with tomato-bacon vinaigrette. Customers should also be on the lookout for fried smelt and potatoes -- his take on fish and chips -- served with a malt-vinegar aioli.

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