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Issue Date: May 2012

Kitchen Makeover

Everyman chef Mike Downing hosts a low-budget cooking show from the comfort of his Walton Hills garage.
Jeff Niesel

Mike Downing had built the ultimate man cave in the basement of his Walton Hills home. He bought a $5,000 pool table, installed a big-screen TV and turned the space into something resembling an Irish pub. But as his kids started to grow up, they began to step on his turf. So last fall, he did what any guy would do when under duress: He took his talents to the garage.

Downing started with a camper stove and a card table. Then he wheeled in a Weber grill and slowly added appliances and a stove. Soon the place had become a fully equipped kitchen. Now he hosts a show he calls Garage Cookin’, which you can watch via his website,

“I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and my dad was a bit of a backyard cook; I kind of got the cooking bug from him,” says Downing, a carpenter who has never worked in a restaurant. “I have no artistic ability, but with cooking I feel like I just have a knack, and I know what goes with what.”

Multiple cameras capture Downing while he works the stove and creates dishes such as pulled pork sliders and muscle mustard chicken legs. A friend’s son mans the cameras for the low-budget affair. “Once we put up a couple of shows at the beginning of the year, it’s gone crazy,” Downing says.

Although he also posts recipes on his website, Downing says he has no intention of writing a book or opening a restaurant. He just hopes a network will give his show a shot.

“A lot of the shows you see on the Food Network these days are really tired,” he says. “They’re old, and they need to switch up things. A lot of the faces and shows have run their course. It’s time to make the flip over.”

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