Meet the chef/owner of Leo. a public house Michael Barnhouse | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Meet the chef/owner of Leo. a public house Michael Barnhouse

click to enlarge Michael Barnhouse - CP PHOTO: TERENEH IDIA
CP photo: Tereneh Idia
Michael Barnhouse

Name: Michael Barnhouse
Work: Chef, owner, and proprietor at Leo. a public house
1207 Allegheny Ave., North Side. leopgh.com

How’d you end up in this location?
When I first moved to Pittsburgh, I was driving around, just exploring the city, and came over to the North Side. Mexican War Streets, Allegheny West. I loved the architecture and it reminded me of living in New York City.

Tell me a bit about Leo.
I was rolling the dice. ... It was a beautiful building that was going to be rehabbed, someone was going to do it, so I just took the chance.

I didn't know what I wanted to name it, nothing hit me like a bolt until I found this picture of my grandfather who was influential to me and who I am today. It was a tiny photograph that no one in the family had seen. I was just playing with the image on my phone. It was a really cool shot. It struck me that this was a brand, it looks like a brand, so I decided that I was just going to name it after my grandfather. 

He just has so much swag.
He was really a very nice guy. He was the first person to take me to a bar, [when I was] like 8 years old. He is making bets with bookies, playing pool, and I am at the bar drinking Orange Crush or whatever. He said, “Don’t tell your mom.” [Laughs]

Tell me about what you’re wearing.
I don’t even know what I am wearing. [Laughs]

Well, it is a heather blue Henley ...
Is that what it is called, a Henley? [Laughs] I own a few of these shirts. They're just casual [and] comfortable. I am wearing Vulcan jeans — they primarily [do] shoe design, but they make very nice jeans. The cut is not tight like hipster jeans, but they conform to the body. [It's] a very nice cut.

click to enlarge Michael Barnhouse - CP PHOTO: TERENEH IDIA
CP photo: Tereneh Idia
Michael Barnhouse

I like your Pumas. Is that your go-to footwear for standing around all day?
Yes, like 50% of the time. It is healthy on your body to switch up your footwear, it's healthy for your back. At least that is what I have been told being a chef, being on your feet all day.

You have cool jewelry as well.
This piece is from the Moluccan tribe in KIrinjawa in Indonesia. I spent time in Indonesia and became very close friends with a Moluccan family in Jakarta. They made me an honorary member. It is called black coral; it is wood but it is super hard. It is formed over flame, it takes a really long time and I was like, "Why don’t we just use boiling water and form it that way?" And he was like, "[You] son-of-a-bitch." [Laughs] He said, "For thousands of years we’ve been doing this and you’re talking about boiling water."

After my mom passed away, this bracelet was just left in her jewelry box and I thought it was really cool. The other bracelet is the chain that held my dad’s father’s house keys, like skeleton keys.

So each piece is really meaningful. Do you wear them every day?
Yes, I never take them off. The Moluccan black coral I may take off to oil or sand it, [since] I have had it since 2003. In the fall and spring, I wear my dad’s old leather jacket a lot.

You have a lot of cool stuff.
Yea. [Laughs]

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment