Wolf's Ridge Brewing Names New Executive Chef
Marine veteran Kristopher Ludwig has worked at the award-winning brewpub since its inception in 2013.
This week, the award-winning restaurant and brewery Wolf’s Ridge Brewing officially announced that it has elevated a longtime staffer to the position of executive chef. Kristopher Ludwig, an Indiana native and Marine veteran, will lead the kitchen after having worked as sous chef at Wolf’s Ridge since the restaurant made its debut 10 years ago. The announcement comes four months after the departure of former executive chef Seth Lassak, who had also been with the brewpub since its opening in 2013.
“I went from farming to the Marines to cowboying to a chef," Ludwig said during an interview Wednesday at the restaurant, describing himself as fiercely loyal, hard-working and passionate about all-things food.
“I would have to say from the time I wake up to the time I sleep, it's just food. I have stacks of [culinary] books all over my house. It's not a job. It's a lifestyle," he says, adding that in his free time, he hunts, forages and fishes.
Seeing chef Emeril Lagasse on TV helped motivate the former U.S. Marine and rodeo cowboy to enroll in culinary school. Ludwig contacted Veterans Affairs about his GI Bill benefits and soon was taking classes at Johnson & Wales University, earning his culinary arts degree at the now-closed Norfolk, Virginia, campus. From there, Ludwig says he worked in “the trenches … up and down the Eastern seaboard.”
By the time 2013 rolled around, Ludwig was living in Columbus and frustrated with his career. He had been a chef at Columbus’ Morton’s Steakhouse when it closed in 2009 amid the Great Recession, and he struggled to find the kind of fine-dining kitchen job he aspired to after that. When Wolf’s Ridge began hiring, he jumped at the opportunity. He was hired as a sous chef under Lassak and has been with the company ever since, helping the Downtown brewpub at 215 N. Fourth St. to grow into one of the top restaurants in the city. It was named the No. 1 Best Restaurant in the city by this magazine in 2018.
Next month, Ludwig will release his first full menu as executive chef of Wolf’s Ridge, a position that also overseees the Downtown taproom and event space, the Hickory Room. (Chef Andy Zamagias serves as executive chef overseeing the Wolf’s Ridge campus at Open Air in the Old North, including Understory, the Commons and an events space.)
Ludwig doesn’t like to use "American food” to describe his menu—because the U.S. is “a melting pot”—but diners can expect elevated comfort food that celebrates high quality Midwestern products, with nods to the chef’s German and Norwegian heritage.
“I tell my cooks if there’s one thing that you learn from me while you're in this kitchen, it’s you cook with love, because people [in the dining room] will know it,” he says.
The chef says diners can expect to see more interaction between the brewery and the kitchen in the future, such as integrating spent grains and using beer vinegars. And the restaurant's penchant for sourcing from Ohio farmers and purveyors—such as Hershberger's Farm, RL Valley Ranch, Guided by Mushrooms and others—will continue under Ludwig. Indeed, the freedom to build relationships with local farmers and to push his creative boundaries is central to Ludwig’s longevity at Wolf’s Ridge.
“It's a great place to work. I have all the freedom in the world to do what I want,” he says. “This is home."