Ouita Michel, renowned chef and restaurateur and Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road Council (GSKWRC) Alum, shared her Girl Scout story as the keynote speaker at the Girl Scout Gold Award Ceremony. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a high school Girl Scout can earn. This year, 15 Girl Scouts earned their Gold Award. Ouita said that Girl Scouts helped her develop a “can-do attitude, a strong work ethic and a strong moral compass.”
“As a successful business woman and community leader, Ouita is a wonderful role model for our Girl Scouts,” says Susan Douglas, GSKWRC CEO. Ouita was a James Beard Foundation Award nominee as Outstanding Restaurateur, and Best Chef in the Southeast. Ouita and her restaurants are regularly featured in media such as The New York Times, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Food Network and Cooking Channel.
Girl Scouting was a family tradition for Ouita. Both her mother and grandmother were Girl Scout leaders.
Ouita was a Girl Scout in Lexington, Kentucky from first grade until she started high school. Her mother was the leader of her Brownie troop at Maxwell Elementary. Ouita spent summers in Wyoming where her grandmother and aunt ran the Girl Scout Day Camp. She also went camping at several GSKWRC camps, including Camps Judy Layne, Cardinal and Shawano. Ouita especially enjoyed outdoor cooking at camp. “I love Girl Scouts’ active, hands-on learning. You don’t just read or watch something, but you actually get to do it. That is what cooking is about.”
Ouita was a Cookie Boss before she was a business owner. Her favorite Girl Scout Cookies are Thin Mints, Thanks a Lots and Lemonades. The Girl Scout Cookie Sale is the largest girl-run business in the world. Girls learn important entrepreneurial skills like goal-setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
“We need to use every tool at our disposal to help kids succeed in life,” said Ouita. She shares her cooking and business expertise with Girl Scouts in her community. She teaches cooking classes and hosts an annual Girl Scout Birthday dinner at Holly Hill, her restaurant in Midway. She also mentors teen Girl Scouts who are working on their Silver and Gold Awards. Ouita was a panelist for Stand Beside Her in 2018. The Facebook Live event was part of The National Stand Beside Her Movement, which focuses on the importance of supporting and celebrating strong girls and women.
Ouita is using the skills and values she developed as a Girl Scout to help her navigate these uncertain and challenging times. “It’s hard to live in a vulnerable state. This happens when you own your own business. I opened Holly Hill right before 9/11. We had to deal with the financial crash of 2007, said Ouita. Girl Scouts can help young women build resiliency. You are better able to trust yourself to take a risk. You get better over time.” Her advice to Girl Scouts is to remember that “Mistakes need not be fatal,” and “When you don’t know what to do, you do the next right thing.”
Ouita Michel is the Owner and Executive Chef of Holly Hill Inn, Midway; Wallace Station Deli, Midway; Windy Corner Market, Lexington; Smithtown Seafood, Lexington; Smithtown at the Summit, Lexington; The Midway Bakery, Midway; Honeywood, Lexington; Zim’s, Lexington. She is also the chef-in-residence, Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky.