In the Driver’s Seat

Jason Campbell at Mary Eddy’s in OKC revs his way toward national recognition.

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Photo by Brent Fuchs

With a name like Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge, today’s must-eat place in Oklahoma City, one might think that Mary is quite the restaurateur. But the actual driver of this eatery, found inside the old Ford Motor Co. assembly plant, is chef Jason Campbell.

The late Mary Eddy Jones, the restaurant’s eponym, was the wife of Fred Jones, the legendary Oklahoma City and Tulsa automobile dealer. Mary Eddy’s is a nod to vehicular history in both name and location.

Mary Eddy’s, sharing space in the old auto plant with the beautifully renovated, art-filled 21c Hotel, is a taste and site experience not to be missed, because Campbell has revved up new ideas during an already exciting time for OKC’s gastro-conscious diners.

The 32-year-old native of Orlando, Florida, had introduced vibrant dishes for the 21c Hotel chain at its Cincinnati, Ohio, property as chef de cuisine before he got a figurative call: “Head south, young man, and do great things.” As executive chef for Mary Eddy’s and the OKC Hotel 21c, Campbell has the freedom to explore menu ideas and flavors that express himself.

“I wanted to do something that had more than a steakhouse feel for sure,” he says. “We want guests to come and be comfortable and relaxed and enjoy themselves as they eat and not feel bad about picking up a charred pork rib or going head on into a Tin Lizzy burger. We want the guest experience to be that what they are eating is made with care; it is fresh and made on site, and as local as we can be.”

Menu items and house specials teem with abundant flavors from Moroccan, French, Greek influences that Campbell learned from chefs he has worked with. He also offers a personal touch from his southern and Florida roots when it comes to seafood and comfort food. Oklahoma City craves that kind of mold-breaking thinking from chefs. The city’s most creative, talented chefs thrive in this environment – and kudos to OKC for embracing new styles.

“I feel the food scene in OKC is going through some awesome growth,” he says. “It’s starting to have a lot more options for the city to go out and try something new. I do feel OKC is trying to break free from the southwest vibe and steakhouse scene, and we are seeing a lot more smaller concepts that focus on the food and the guest, and not just on how pretty the place is.”

This OKC adopted son plans to continue growing Mary Eddy’s by training the best cooks and passing that love of food and creative talent forward. He will maintain involvement in the community, and maybe, just maybe, there might be a James Beard Award winner from Thunder City.

“The James Beard would be a dream come true for me,” Campbell says. “It’s the Oscars for chefs. I honestly think about it on a daily basis. I ask myself, ‘Is this dish Beard worthy?’ and train my team to cook and think that way. It would be an honor if I could achieve that here in OKC.”

Yes, 21c, this young man came back down south and has done great things. May he bring home the gold.

Hummus

with Burned Honey, Roasted Squash Puree and Everything Spice

Hummus

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  1. Soak chickpeas in water overnight with 1 tsp. of the baking powder; make sure to double the amount of water to cover the chickpeas because they absorb water.
  2. Drainand rinse the peas the next day and place in a larger pot. Add the other teaspoon of baking powder.
  3. Cover with water (at least 4 inches above the peas), bring to a boil, skim any foam that comes to the top of the pot, reduce the heat to medium low, cover again and simmer for about 1 hour.
  4. Make sure the peas are completely tender, then cook for another 30 minutes; it’s OK if they get overcooked and mushy (it helps make the hummus creamy).
  5. Drain in colander.
  6. Mix peas, tahini, salt and cumin in a food processor. Puree for 5 minutes or until super creamy; if needed, add a little water to help get it to proper texture.
  7. To serve, put hummus into a bowl, make a small indention in the hummus, add simple roasted squash puree, sprinkle with everything spice, and drizzle with burned honey.
  8. Eat with grilled pita, naan or crunchy vegetables.

Burned honey

  • 1 cup orange blossom honey
  1. Pour honey in a high-sided sauce pot and put over medium heat, let come to a bubble and watch for the color to change to a light amber.
  2. Set side until cool, then place in airtight container.

Everything spice

  • 2 tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 2 tbsp. white or black sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp. dried minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp. dried onions
  • 1 tbsp. flake salt
  1. Mix all together, spread on cookie sheet or small pan and toast for 5 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
  2. Add to an airtight container once cooled (it will keep at room temperature for a week).

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