Oklahoma-born executive chef Josh Valentine has a passion for contemporary Oklahoma cuisine, and is working to revive that essence in his home state. At Milo, the restaurant inside OKC’s Ellison Hotel, he’s reinventing traditional flavors with a unique and approachable twist – drawing on four generations of family roots to serve up plates featuring only the freshest seasonal ingredients.
November 2021 marked the opening of Milo, showcasing local ingredients in inventive, exciting and delectable dishes. Despite having to briefly close its doors after a Nichols Hills apartment building fire in spring 2022, Milo re-emerged triumphant.
Valentine takes his Del City roots and adds a modern spark to classic Southern flavors, with dishes like chicken-fried steak, fried chicken and pillowy biscuits enveloped by savory gravy.
“I just try to play with those things and put my little twist on them,” he says.
Valentine, a formally trained chef and former Top Chef Seattle contestant, brings a flair to his dishes. His menus offer “dishes that are familiar but different enough for those that aren’t necessarily adventurous eaters,” he says. “Guests will recognize something on our menu and take a chance on a dish they may not have tried before.”
At Milo, customers can experience everything from pimento cheese tater tots served with homemade spicy ketchup, to the buttermilk fried quail served with collard greens, grits and chorizo gravy.
Growing up, Valentine’s grandmother and great-grandmother alike captivated him with their culinary experiences. He fondly remembers “always being by their sides in the kitchen, eating, cooking or getting in their way,” he says.
Most of all, he remembers the walls of bright jars, filled to the brim with pickles, okra and other vegetables that lined their storm shelter and cellar walls – the contents straight from their own gardens.
Those walls of jarred goodies have found their way into the menu as condiments. One of Valentine’s childhood favorites is chowchow, a pickled relish made with a variety of summer vegetables.
Diners can’t get enough of the restaurant’s crispy pork rillettes starter, either. The rillettes are savory breaded nuggets made with slow-cooked bacon and pork, fried to perfection and served alongside that beloved chowchow and whole grain mustard.
Valentine is dedicated to providing memorable Oklahoma culinary experiences by sourcing ingredients only from local farms and ranches. The team takes a flexible approach when it comes to menu planning; instead of deciding what should be served ahead of time, Valentine likes to “see what they [the farmers] are growing, what they are having luck on, and then I try to use that to turn and see how the menu will change seasonally.” This brings the most memorable flavors of Oklahoma cuisine to hotel guests, as well as the community.
Milo is also the place to satisfy even the heartiest morning cravings with breakfast and weekend brunch. Feast on signature dishes like their delectable Okie Benedict, tender chicken fried steak served over pillowy soft biscuits smothered in gravy, or opt for something lighter like a fruit bowl or freshly baked pastries.
While Milo’s menu is mainly rooted in traditional Oklahoma cuisine, Valentine has elevated it to create something truly special. He’s particularly excited for the year ahead.
“I’m looking to get better – pushing, being creative and keeping the staff happy,” he says. “That’s the most important thing right now, just keeping my staff engaged and happy.”
Milo at the Ellison Hotel is located at 6201 N.W. Ave. in OKC. It is open for breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, brunch on Saturday-Sunday, and dinner seven nights a week.