INA, Ill. – After nearly three years in business, local restaurant entrepreneurs Katie Karcher and Troy Ray have had many things to celebrate, from their successful business on the square in Benton to the birth of their two children, and good things don’t seem to be slowing down for the Rend Lake College alumni.
Karcher and Ray opened their own restaurant, Seasoning Bistro, in August 2011 after leaving RLC’s Culinary Arts program. The duo named the restaurant for their love of seasoning food and interest in switching up the food on the menu, depending on the season of the year.
“We rotate the menu twice a year. We just like to switch it up,” said Ray. “We’re still going pretty strong. Recently, we’ve been really busy on the weekends. There are some people who come in every weekend.”
Seasoning Bistro’s forte is home-cooked, hearty food at an affordable price. And no matter what’s on the menu, patrons can eat assured that it’s fresh.
“We try to get as much food and ingredients as we can at the Farmer’s Market. If they have fresh tomatoes, we don’t order tomatoes, it just depends,” said Ray.
Outside of their thriving business, Ray, originally from Herrin, and Karcher, a native of Dahlgren, have since brought home their first child, Stella, and second child, Harvey.
“We’ve started a family and we’re still trucking along,” said Ray.
The couple both became interested in the culinary arts while in school prior to RLC. Ray started working with his mother, JoAnn Dempsey, at the Marion Holiday Inn, where she was food and beverage director. Before Seasoning Bistro, he ran a catering business with his mother and worked at Walker’s Bluff in Carterville as a chef.
Likewise, Karcher was always interested in cooking, but decided to become a chef while in high school. A fresh graduate from Hamilton County Senior High School, she enrolled in RLC’s Culinary Arts program. Like Ray, she worked her way up at Walker’s Bluff to pastry chef. Together, they have said their education at RLC in the Culinary Arts program was essential for their success.
“I loved my experience there,” Ray said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. The program was affordable and close to home, so it was an easy decision to make. Katie and I really enjoyed our time there and we would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to go into the culinary arts industry.”
When asked about the future, Ray said expanding would be a nice option to look into; however, no serious plans have been put into place.
“If we could do it, we’d definitely like to. Right now, we have around 15 employees, and we’d like to be a bigger part of the community. If we could expand, that would be more people with jobs around here. That would be great,” said Ray.
Still on the square, patrons are in for a treat by visiting Seasoning Bistro at 506 Public Square in Benton. The restaurant is also Facebook at www.facebook.com/SeasoningBistro. Ordering ahead is also available at 618-439-3003.
For more about the Culinary Arts program at Rend Lake College, visit online at www.rlc.edu/culinaryarts or call 618-437-5321.