During the summer, the Steeles purchase about 80 percent of their produce locally. Sandy Creek Farms in Ravenswood supplies the meats and farmers in Monroe Country produce all 45 to 50 dozen eggs used weekly in Bluegrass Kitchen.
In his Louisville childhood home, Needham ate meals prepared at home by his parents, who were both excellent cooks.
"Food was always the center of family gatherings," he said. "My best childhood memories are all based on meals."
He left high school in 1971 and headed to California, where he apprenticed at restaurants up and down the coast. From there, he honed his trade in restaurants in Chicago, Colorado, Reno, Miami, Vermont and Maine before landing in New Jersey.
In his nearly 40-year career, Needham developed a style flavored by wide-ranging ethnic influences. His Southern roots show in his barbeque and bourbon pork tenderloin and gumbo with andoullie sausage. Asian and Indian seasonings and preparations influence other dishes, as do Spanish, Italian, French and Southwestern cooking traditions.
Employees in Needham's kitchen hustle to keep pace with him and his ideas for new dishes. They master new techniques under his watchful eye, usually laughing as they learn.
"I'm here for the fun - I really am. Working here is a gas," Needham said. "It's all about the environment. We sing and dance in the kitchen.
"People like working at a good place and it shows in the food."
Want to go?
1600 Washington St., E.
OPEN: 1 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
INFO: Call 304-346-2871 or visit www.bluegrasswv.com for daily specials. Reservations accepted.