Oklahoma’s Prodigal Chef

With an abundance of commercial success, chef Josh Valentine returns to Oklahoma to lead Milo at the Ellison.

121
After successful stints in LA and Dallas, Josh Valentine returned to OKC to take charge of the kitchen at the brand-new Milo at the Ellison. Photos courtesy Milo at the Ellison

Though he has lived in Los Angeles and Dallas and even made it into the top three of Bravo’s reality competition Top Chef, chef Joshua Valentine always comes home, and he’s always been a proud Oklahoman.

Valentine is one of the fortunate handful of culinarians who can say that they went through the apprenticeship program with chef Kurt Fleischfresser at the Coach House. That experience has served him well over the past 16 years, and he has gained a tremendous amount of culinary experience on his journey to his newest adventure. 

Valentine recently opened Milo at the Ellison Hotel at 6201 N. Western Ave in Oklahoma City. Some chefs shy away from questions pinpointing a specific “concept” of a new venture – particularly before seeing how it is received in the first few weeks of opening. Valentine, however, will quickly tell you that this is all about his vision and interpretation of “Oklahoma food.” 

“Elevated indigenous ingredients” drive the menu at Milo, showcasing bison, sorghum, quail and the “three sisters” (corn, beans, and squash), among others. His version of chicken fried steak replaces beef with bison. Being an Oklahoma-centric restaurant guarantees a full selection of meats on the menu. Still, they also have options for vegetarians, and not the typical “side dishes as an entrée” type that many diners have to sit through. 

Because I’m in the unique position to write about food while also cooking professionally, I have the pleasure to consider so many in the chef community my friends and colleagues. One of the things I admire so much about Josh is his view of the people: the lifeblood of his restaurants, both front and back of the house, as not only co-workers but as friends, and often more like family. He values the diversity in those he works with and sees everyone’s differences as assets. He relates it to the joy he finds in the diversity of Oklahoma’s native foods. In the end, it creates a better experience for his diners.

When I asked him about the thought process behind Milo, he didn’t hesitate. 

“I’ve always wanted to push Oklahoma as far as I can in the culinary sense,” he says. “Some people leave here and are ashamed to tell people that they are from Oklahoma. Not me – I’m very proud of that. I always tell them where I’m from, and not just Oklahoma, I’m from Del City, Oklahoma!”

ad

That kind of pride and passion show in his food – in the attention to detail that elevates ingredients many people take for granted every day. It is comfort food with a level of elegance that most of us don’t experience at home. It is a celebration of where he comes from, and where he chose to return to time and time again.

Milo opened in November 2021. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and dinner seven nights a week.