In November, the beloved Scratch Paseo in OKC closed suddenly. For chef Zach Hutton and his beverage-expert wife Kayla, the abrupt end to the hyper-local, seasonal and locally sourced Paseo Arts District favorite came as a blow.

The pair didn’t stay down for long, however – because bouncing back from what so many people think is impossible is the norm for this duo.

They gathered their Scratch Paseo staff, dusted themselves off, and opened GHST Restaurant & Bar mere weeks later.

With Zach in the kitchen and Kayla behind the bar, many of GHST’s menu items and drinks may seem familiar to Scratch fans – like the upscaled popcorn, elote corn dogs, classic cheeseburgers and chicken and donuts. Located in the old Ludivine building, GHST offers up two bar areas featuring Kayla’s witchy, stunning and delicious concoctions. However, Zach says the public shouldn’t get too used to the location. Just months after opening, he’s already set his sights on something bigger.

In late spring or early summer, the Huttons will open Alma, a new high-end dining experience in downtown Oklahoma City, keeping GHST as only a special events and catering space. Alma, named in honor of Zach’s grandmother, will showcase the Hutton talent on a whole new level. 

“We’re leaning into fine dining, and I’m going to bring Michelin here,” he says. “We are revamping the concept toward something I’ve been working on for most of my career. It’s going to be the culmination of everything that I’ve been working on.” 

Backing up some years, you’ll find Zach in Apache, growing up on a close-to-500-acre cattle ranch. Life was isolated, but he learned early the art of living off the land. Receiving a copy of Kitchen Confidential by chef Anthony Bourdain in high school changed Zach’s course. He decided culinary school was where he needed to be and attended Platt Culinary Institute on Northside when it was still accredited. But Zach’s career trajectory had a few swerves.

“When I started, I thought I wanted to do French, I thought I wanted to be classy. I thought I wanted to do something with roots in something more than the things that I grew up on,” he says. “The moment I started being successful, I realized that things that I grew up on were the same things being done in fancy cuisine, just done in a different region. It’s poor food reimagined by passionate people.”

Life as a budding chef nearly killed Zach, however. Like many others working in the high-stress environment of hospitality, he fell into drinking. Things came to a head when he was diagnosed in 2016 with severe pancreatitis at age 26, and spent 30 days in the hospital.

“I lost 80 pounds just in the first four weeks,” he says. “They sent a priest into my hospital room. I was killing myself with drinking and had something that happens to 55-year-old alcoholics.”

After his hospital stay and recovery, Zach took back control of his life and became the driving force behind Scratch Paseo with Kayla at his side. 

“I had to rewrite every recipe for an existing menu, but then I started leaning into local products,” says Zach. “I said, ‘If it’s called Scratch, just make everything from scratch.’ So that’s when I finally started leaning into my childhood and my grandmother’s handwritten memoirs and recipes.”

Zach Hutton and wife Kayla will soon open a new fine dining restaurant, Alma, while keeping the popular GHST Restaurant and Bar as an event and catering space. Photos courtesy Zach Hutton/GHST

Those heady days of buying local and creating “Oklahoma-centric” cuisine crashed the weekend before Thanksgiving 2023 when the owner decided to close the restaurant. But Zach and Kayla refused to stay down for long.

“When we first came into GHST, we immediately started,” says Zach. “It took us six days to clean and rewrite the menu completely.”

And GHST was, indeed, a hit. With success, however, came growing pains, and Zach realized early on that the current space wasn’t big enough. Thus, the creation of Alma’s. He plans to bring back the local ingredients and the relationships with the nearby farms. 

“I feel like as a chef, you should be obligated – if you’re from here – to cultivate your cuisine into something specific to where you’re from, instead of just trying to recreate some other crap,” he says. “Make it Oklahoma.”

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