Sassy former MasterChef contestant calls Dayton ‘truly a hidden gem of America’ while visiting

Celebrity chef and fashion designer Tommy Walton was spotted at Ghostlight Coffee on Sunday afternoon. (CONTRIBUTED)
Caption
Celebrity chef and fashion designer Tommy Walton was spotted at Ghostlight Coffee on Sunday afternoon. (CONTRIBUTED)

Credit: Tabatha Wharton

Credit: Tabatha Wharton

If you wanted to know what Brooklyn felt like about 15 years ago before its big renaissance, you need look no further than downtown Dayton, said celebrity chef and fashion designer, Tommy Walton.

"Dayton truly is a hidden gem of America," he said. "You have such a great vibe here in the heartland. Every time I come back, I can feel the energy just keeps growing."

Walton, most recently known for being a contestant on “MasterChef” with Gordon Ramsay, was spotted this weekend at Ghostlight Coffee. We caught up with Tommy to see what brought him to the Gem City.

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"You know, I will get on a plane for an hour and come here to Dorothy Lane Market just to shop," he gushed while we discussed his favorite things about Dayton. "Grocery shopping is my favorite thing to do — and Dorothy Lane is in my top five in the country."

Tommy, who now lives in Chicago, spent his summers growing up here in Dayton. His mother still lives here (and was the oldest graduate from Sinclair last year at the age of 89), as does his sister and nieces and nephews.

Tommy’s career as a celebrity chef to the likes of Aretha Franklin, Richard Pryor, Brooke Shields, Della Reese and Robert Redford has spanned decades and taken him to the far reaches of the world to prepare his Creole-Americana blend of gourmet fare.

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"I had to stop at Meadowlark," he said. "Last time I was here, I ate there three times," he exclaimed. "And of course I went to Lily's and Salar, and we tried Wheat Penny, too."

Walton also spoke of taking back spirits from Belle of Dayton to Chicago for events he's hosting this week, as well as the makings for jalapeno vanilla ice cream.

"You can't beat the hand-crafted cheeses and the farmers' markets out here. A chef doesn't have to go to a big city to make it; they'd get eaten alive. Everything you could ever need is right here."

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Tommy has spent most of his time in meetings with DLM, and hinted heavily at some future collaborations with the local grocery.

"I think, coming here soon, you'll be seeing a bit more of me around Dorothy Lane," he teased.

Oh, and when asked what his can’t-live-without-it Dayton staple is?

"Those Mike-Sells chips! Those are like currency; you could trade those for money!"

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