WHY HE'S INTERESTING: Kuhn is cooking up a storm. As the owner of the Driftwood Restaurant Group, he already oversees a tasty portfolio of eight restaurants, which includes local favorites such as Washington Place Bistro and Inn, Hodge's, Cibreo Italian Kitchen and most recently, Rothschild Farms in the Theater District. His eatery empire will expand again later this year with the opening of Sanctuary restaurants inside the DoubleTree by Hilton hotels in Westlake and Beachwood.
fork in the road: Growing up, Kuhn's family came together each night over a fusion of his mother's Jewish dishes such as matzo ball soup and his father's penchant for meat and potatoes. At Solon High School, Kuhn earned all-state honors in soccer, dated the homecoming and prom queens and felt that he had it all. Then he flunked out of the hospitality program at the University of Alabama, returned home, broke his back and floundered for three years. "I never knew what failure felt like."
meal planner: He graduated from the University of Akron's culinary program, then finished his undergraduate degree in management from Malone University. "I turned to what I love — food. I found my confidence and rediscovered who I am."
SWEET TOOTH: Kuhn is a sucker for frozen treats, particularly Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream. "If I were to head up to their store now, I'd probably bring home at least three flavors: vanilla, black raspberry chocolate chunk and lemon blackberry yogurt. I'm trying to convince them to make a cereal milk flavor, like what the milk tastes like after you have a bowl of Frosted Flakes."
WEARING THE UNIFORM: Kuhn was only 27 when he purchased his first restaurant, the Allegheny Grille in Foxburg, Pa. He wanted to know what diners thought of their food and service, so he bussed tables in the requisite uniform. "I found I got a much more honest answer from customers rather than approaching them in a suit and tie. I apply that experience today. It's the little things you also need to double-check, like, Is the plate hot when it's delivered to the table?"
HIS GO-TO DISH: Kuhn and his wife, Amy, have a garden at home that helps them whip up lots of dishes. "We love to make mushroom risotto with either a veal stock or chicken stock base to the sauce, which would also have white wine, a little bit of garlic and shallots."