The farm-to-table movement, which focuses on fresh, local ingredients and a more personal and less commercial approach, has been steadily gaining steam in recent years. The Wildflower Café has brought farm-to-table to Mason since 2008.
Todd Hudson, Executive Chef and owner, describes his style as “eclectic Ohio dining,” or “fine dining without all the pretentiousness.” Eclectic Ohio dining focuses on high-quality, locally grown and produced ingredients. In addition to being close to several local farmers, Hudson and his wife Jenna live on a small farm, and they use their own produce at the café.
Owning restaurants and farming both run in the family. Two of Hudson’s great-grandmothers owned restaurants in Hamilton.
“My grandma’s family farmed in Ireland before she came to America and married my grandpa, whose family farmed in Clay County, Kentucky,” Hudson said.
The family shared a large garden with their neighbor, and they would use the crops for their meals. That set for Hudson a standard that, he was shocked to discover, many restaurants don’t meet.
“I have never understood why a restaurant would intentionally buy food from other countries or California, that we literally grow within a 5-10 minute drive, that’s incredibly higher in quality. The goal of a good kitchen should be to provide the best food possible, and that’s just not possible most of the time when you buy from such far away places,” he said.
The Wildflower Café is the fulfilment of a dream Hudson has had since as far back as freshman year of high school, when he wrote a paper saying that the three things he wanted in life were to “own my own organic restaurant, marry Jenna Hensley, and drive a VW Beetle.” (He has since achieved all three.) He picked up his love of cooking from his grandmother Sheila, to whom he was very close and who loved feeding people.
Hudson has worked in professional kitchens since he was 15 years old and initially planned to open a restaurant with his friend, who passed away from cancer when Hudson was in his early twenties. He pressed on, and he and his wife (who now teaches for the Lakota school system) opened the Wildflower Café in 2008.
In addition to the relationship with local farmers, Hudson is involved with the community by supporting philanthropic ventures. Hudson is on the boards of the Karen Carns Foundation, which provides supplies and tuition assistance to students in financial need, and his father’s Dr. Alan T. Hudson Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to graduating high school seniors going to trade schools, police or fire academies, or community campuses.
The Wildflower Café also donates proceeds from wine sales to several charities, including One Way Farm and Kings Local Food Pantry.
As with many restaurants, the Wildflower Café was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The café lost several employees in the pandemic, and Hudson has been trying to bolster staff numbers while remaining selective in who he hires. He has also been dealing with inflation and supply chain issues.
“We’re super optimistic, and everything has been going really well for the last six months or so,” Hudson said. “We hope to just keep getting better every day like we always have.”
HOW TO GO
The Wildflower Café is located at 207 E Main St. in Mason. The hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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