Mike Wajda, Executive Chef
Mike Wajda is the executive chef of Proof on Main, housed in the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville. Wajda graduated from the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in 2007, and later worked as chef de partie at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at the London Hotel in New York City. After three years working alongside famed chef Gordon Ramsay, Wajda worked at multiple restaurants up and down the East Coast, including Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2014, Wajda joined Michael Mina Group in San Francisco as corporate sous chef, and helped to manage 23 restaurants and over 1500 employees. Throughout his tenure with Michael Mina Group, he helped open seven restaurant concepts around the country, all within one year.
As executive chef of Proof on Main, Wajda showcases his unique, modern approach to comfortable and accessible cuisine with a focus on sourcing seasonal produce from Kentucky and the surrounding area. After growing up on farms in Ohio, Wajda developed a passion for using the sustainable ingredients of the region, and his menu at Proof on Main focuses on local purveyors including 21c founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson’s Woodland Farm.
Charlie Cronin, Food & Beverage Director, Proof on Main
Charlie Cronin, a Los Angeles native, has more than a decade of food and beverage experience and proudly cut his teeth with 21c Museum Hotels as a banquet bartender. He went on to manage numerous bars and restaurants across the world, including New York, Philadelphia and Ireland. Over the years, Cronin developed his self-described “old-school,” thoughtful and honest approach to bar management and precise control of operations as general manager for a number of establishments, including Prohibition in New York City. Most recently, he served as Food and Beverage Director of Lockbox at 21c Lexington. He returned to Kentucky and 21c because of his love of bourbon and his attraction to the flourishing culinary scene.
Cronin comes to Proof on Main having traveled to and experienced more than 20 different countries. His most influential experience was in a bar in Tokyo, where the cocktail creation was at a level he had never witnessed before. “I came across this little cocktail bar with only fifteen seats. I am not exaggerating when I say it changed my life. There are a lot of cocktail bars in the world and I’ve been to some of the best, but Bar Tram was something special. The presentation is what struck me the most. My friend got a drink called Jet Black Bird which was colored ebony by charcoal powder, presented in a coupe glass on a disk of wood, covered with a gilded bird cage which was then removed for theatrical effect. I had never seen anything like it. The bartenders took so much pride in their craft, meticulously using tweezers and razor blades, making each drink a work of art. This attention to detail, creativity and contemplative handling of ingredients is part of a constant dialogue I have with my staff at Proof on Main.