Chef: Warmth, creative flair make Booker-Lewis a dining destination

The Booker-Lewis House is located at 106 East North Street in Leesville.


LEESVILLE -- When John Martinez was hired as chef at the Booker-Lewis House, he knew that he found something special. He said, simply put, the old home has warmth.

"We feel like we have a destination here," said Martinez, a Kansas City native. "When I first came here, it just felt like home."

The first floor of the old Queen Anne Colonial Revival, owned by Leesville Mayor Robert Rose, is a restaurant. The upper level is a bed-and-breakfast. The home, built around 1905, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

But if you visit the Booker-Lewis to eat, the timeworn floors and fireplaces, white linen tables, fresh flowers and candlelight are all just accessories to the flavorful offerings on the restaurant's creative menu.

There, you'll find anything from roasted pork tenderloin topped with a pear-fig relish to fresh, Gulf oysters. Some favorite dishes are Veal Oscar, cannelloni, rubbed ribeye and stuffed shrimp, but you can also find soups, sandwiches and salads. There's even a "Surprise me, chef" option.

Whatever the choice, Martinez said he tries to put a personal touch on everything.

"You know, I really don't feel like I have a specialty of any kind of food. I like to intermingle flavors and food, and experiment with that kind of thing ... not really anything say, Italian or Mexican or German or anything like that. It's just a fusion of all these things that I like to experiment with," he said.

The son of a chef, Martinez has been cooking since he was a child. He worked at various hotels and restaurants before coming to Leesville. He said he followed his son to the area.

"My son was in the military. I followed along and wanted to be closer to my grandkids and here, I found this great, little restaurant in Leesville," he said.

Martinez said the menu is always being tweaked. He said the restaurant recently added a new kitchen and with it, there are possibilities.

"We just built a kitchen from the ground up. The kitchen that we were in for the last three and a half years was just the kitchen that was original to the home. We've blown out the side of a building here and put in a commercial kitchen. It's  as nice as can be. It's one of the nicest ones in the area, if not the nicest," he said.

Martinez said of course, service is also top priority at the Booker-Lewis. It sets the place apart, he said.

"We feel like everybody who comes here is a part of our family and we treat them as such," he said.

You can find more about the restaurant, including breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, as well as hours, on the Booker-Lewis website.

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Location : Kansas City
01/06/2014 10:59AM
Chef: Warmth, creative flair make Booker-Lewis a dining destination
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