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Local Chef Buzzes into a Honey of a Business

Original Feature from July 24, 2014 – The Maple Leaf

Local Chef Buzzes into a Honey of a Business

“Here in Geauga, we put time and care into everything we do and are very nurturing. It shows in the food we grow and the food we prepare with love.” –Kimberlyn McCune Gibson

If Hollywood ever makes a movie of chef Kimberlyn McCune Gibson’s life, it will probably be called “The Beekeeper’s Daughter.”

Gibson — the daughter of former Auburn Township Trustee and local bee expert Gene McCune and his wife, Karen — grew up around her father’s beehives, Amish farmers and her mother’s kitchen.

Her early fascinations with home and farm gave her a lifelong passion for finding new creative ways to use Geauga County agricultural products, including the honey from her dad’s hives.

“I’m the daughter of the Bee Man and the Queen Bee,” she explained with a laugh. “At least, that’s what I like to call them.”

Gibson said most little girls grow up taking ballet lessons and dreaming of being a ballerina.

“But when I was little, I was beekeeping with my father,” she recalled. “Because of Dad’s bees, we visited a lot of farms, especially Amish farms, so I grew up with an appreciation for the abundance of what we have here in Geauga County and what goes into the foods we eat here.”

Gibson grew up near the Sun Valley Party Center, a popular setting for many weddings and special events over the years, and developed a fascination with creative food preparations, celebrations and making people happy.

She credits the culinary program at Auburn Career Center for inspiring her to study to become a chef.

“They have an exceptional program, and my teachers put me in every competition they could find,” Gibson said. “I won the competitions, which led to scholarships, and also won the Chagrin Valley Rotary scholarship. With the help of the scholarships, I studied at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y.”

She said the intensive program introduced her to everything from simple ethnic dishes to the most elaborate pastries.

After graduation, Gibson spent time working in restaurants all over, but found herself being drawn back home to Geauga County.

“I get asked all the time what my favorite food is to create, and I’d have to say I love doing homestyle comfort food,” Gibson said. “I love that backyard barbecue feel, which is an ode to Geauga County cuisine, which I think of as love of food, love of family and love of community. Here in Geauga, we put time and care into everything we do and are very nurturing. It shows in the food we grow and the food we prepare with love.”

When she returned to the area, she worked with renowned local chef Loretta Paganini in Chester Township and married Jimmy Gibson, a chef at Case Western Reserve University. The couple lives in Bainbridge Township and has a 1-year-old daughter, Harper Grace.

“The family calls her the Baby Bee,” she said with a laugh.

Gibson left Paganini’s to go into business on her own as a private chef, catering in homes and delivering meals to an upscale clientele.

She also created ReHive Ale, which she says is the first sustainable brewery in the United States to be created by a woman.

But two businesses weren’t enough for the admitted workaholic.

“My parents are workaholics, so we were always involved in everything,” Gibson recalled. “We were always so busy that we did a lot of grabbing what we could at drive-thrus. I decided to make another option for our community — good food that was quick and convenient at a fast food price.”

Next month, she’ll open The Hungry Bee, a retail shop that will offer affordable, ready-made meals for take-out in a former caterer’s storefront at 8326 E. Washington St., Bainbridge.

“The menu will be an ode to Geauga County, with offerings like beer braised short ribs,” Gibson said. “Everything will be local, from local farms. Of course, I’ll use honey a lot in my recipes, so The Hungry Bee is a natural name.”

And, as if opening a third business isn’t enough of a challenge, she is also helping to organize Homegrown Geauga, a $100 per person gala in September that will showcase local food prepared by area chefs.

The event will raise money for scholarships for career education and internships for local high school students.

“I’m very excited about it, because it will showcase the best of Geauga County,” Gibson said. “Outside, we’ll have 12 to 15 local vendors that will be open to the community. There will be samples of everything. Inside will be a grand buffet highlighting guest chefs such as Jonathan Bennett of Moxie and chefs from University Hospital, Nestle and the Agrarian Collective.

“It will be an incredible event, both from a food and an entertainment perspective, and it will all showcase what is best from Geauga County and why Geauga County is an incredible place to live and have your own business,” she said.

Gibson said she considers herself a fan of the county and its rural traditions.

“I’m proud to say I’m a Geauga County chef,” Gibson said. “There’s nowhere else I want to be.”

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