The winner of CityBeat’s 2012 Sugar Rush event was none other than Aunt Flora (Katrina Mincy) of the now closed Aunt Flora’s House of Soul and the newly opened The Cobbleria downtown. After winning everyone over with her peach cobbler, Flora isn’t retiring the rolling pin anytime soon.
In her latest venture, Flora acquired three separate spaces adjacent to each other. The first one to open up is The Cobbleria (213 West Fourth St.). Similar to her previous spots, she’s offering the same comfort foods people depend on: sweet down-home cobblers, cakes and savory baked goods, lovingly referred to by some of her patrons as cobbler pot pies. Added to the list at The Cobbleria will be cakes: pound, red velvet cakes, caramel and coconut. Just don’t expect any wedding cakes from Flora — she wants to make only the best comfort foods that your grandma would make you.
“I want it to be desserts that you can’t just go to a regular bakery and get,” Flora said, “like old-time desserts that grandma used to make that just kind of warm your spirits.”
Not her first rodeo in the restaurant industry, Flora has been opening restaurants for over a decade, a venture that began with her first pie contest in the early 2000s with Chuck Martin of The Enquirer, which she won with her cobbler, of course. She was inspired to start a business selling cobblers after her number got out to the public. The next thing she knew, she could hardly keep up with the pie orders.
“He did a story on me and that was around Thanksgiving,” Flora said. “I was crying.
I had cobblers on my ironing board, my coffee table. I had cobblers everywhere.”
The recipe she used to win that competition was the same one she used to win the Sugar Rush event. It was a combination of her pie recipe mixed with her father’s.
“I didn’t know whose recipe to use,” Flora said, “so I kind of just combined them. That’s how I came up with the three-layered cobbler.”
Her famous cobbler recipe and her penchant for cooking have taken her many places in Cincinnati as well as onto the television sets of Martha Stewart’s and Oprah Winfrey’s shows. Stewart sought out Flora’s cobbler at Findlay Market. Flora remembers walking up to her store front after delivering cakes and seeing Stewart eating one of her cobblers.
“I thought I was going to die,” Flora said.
They hit it off and Flora was on the show’s set shortly thereafter, hanging out with Stewart and cooking up a savory cobbler.
She said that Stewart’s show was nothing compared to the work she had to do for Winfrey’s. For Stewart’s, Flora only had to go on set and cook. Winfrey’s required an entrance video for a competition to win her own show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Flora spent six weeks on set in a trial, which Flora described as like being on American Idol.
She and everyone she knew had to sign confidentiality forms. Flora spent the time tucked away in her hotel room away from TV, phone and the Internet.
“I lived like a rock star for those six weeks,” Flora said.
The second space she’s opening is What’s in the Skillet? (211 West Fourth St.). Since she’s known for her comfort-style fare, Flora wants to add more home-spun twists to her kitchen concept.
“It’s basically whatever I decide to cook that day,” Flora said. “I [will] always have some type of fish or chicken, but if I decide to cook some Italian pasta that day, that’s what you get.”
She wants her guests to call ahead to see what she’s making for the evening, like you’d call before you go to your mom’s or grandma’s house to find out what’s for dinner.
“People label me soul food, but I can cook anything,” Flora said.
Instead of soul food, she’d rather her food be referred to as comfort food, which she wants to teach everyone how to cook in her third restaurant concept, the Kitchen Stadium, where she’ll instruct groups of people how to cook simple foods, as well as dishes from different cuisines.
At this point, The Cobbleria is ready to take pie orders and What’s in the Skillet? is now open for lunch and dinner. Her third downtown venture is gearing up for its debut.The Cobbleria
Go: 213 West Fourth St., Downtown
Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday