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SPRINGFIELD, MO.

Feast 5: Walnut Street Inn’s John Clayton on ‘fire’ mac ‘n’ cheese, ginger and asparagus for breakfast

John Clayton

John Clayton is the chef at Walnut Street Inn, a bed and breakfast in Springfield. 

Feast 5 is a weekly column introducing you to some of the best chefs, bartenders, makers, farmers and more around the region. Have a recommendation for someone who should be featured? Email us at editor@feastmagazine.com.

Born and raised in Springfield, John Clayton has witnessed – and contributed – to the city’s growing food scene for a number of years. Currently the chef at Walnut Street Inn, Clayton started working in local restaurants as a teenager, eventually working at spots like Gilardi’s, the former Frisco Crossing Restaurant and MaMa Jean’s Natural Market & Deli.

He then entered the catering industry, focusing on showcasing local ingredients and producers while at The Gracious Plate. He’s also partnered to create farm-to-table dinners at Terrell Creek Farms, a goat cheese farm in Fordland, Missouri

Clayton started at Walnut Street Inn in summer 2020, and the opportunity to be part of a bed and breakfast team has been fulfilling for him.

“What I really love about it is getting to meet people that are travelling from all over the country, and even internationally as well. So it’s nice to be able to interact with them, hear their stories,” he says. 

Guests at the inn can expect scratch-made, chef-driven breakfasts that are worth waking up for. Clayton says the dishes are good, solid comfort breakfast food with a little bit of creative edge. Highlights include his pancakes, quiche and sweet potato hash. 

Here, Clayton shares his favorite bite in Springfield, explains his love of ginger and argues for asparagus becoming a breakfast staple. 

1. What’s the best thing you’ve ordered at a local bar or restaurant recently? We have a really good local food and beverage scene here in town. But if I had to pick one, I’ll go with probably my favorite restaurant in town, which is Farmers Gastropub. They have a miso mac ‘n’ cheese, and it’s fire. Fire on a plate. It’s comfort food, which is something that I love. They just give it a little bit of a twist. 

2. What’s the best style of pizza – and why? I’ll go with the Neapolitan pizza – traditional. There’s nothing like really good tomatoes, fresh herbs, the rich olive oil drizzle on top and bubbly, charred crust. It’s awesome. 

3. What’s your favorite food memory? Cooking coq au vin for the Missouri State baseball team here in town. Reason why is, one, I’m a huge sports fan, and I love to support anything local, obviously. So getting to support the local athletes on top of that and serve them an awesome meal. That was pretty special for me, pretty awesome. It’s something I’ll never forget. 

4. What ingredient do you think everyone should keep at home and why? Ginger, gotta go ginger. It could be fresh ginger, could be the ginger powder. The biggest reason is probably the medicinal properties behind it. It’s a natural immune booster and good for brain function. Nothing like taking a ginger shot in the morning to get your day going. Also I cook with ginger a lot, especially at home – lots of roasted chicken, good seafood, sauces. You name it, it just kind of brightens up the dish. 

5. What’s your most controversial food opinion? I don’t know if it’s controversial, but I’ve definitely been known to serve a lot of asparagus at breakfast. I have gotten a couple of looks. Nothing bad, but if you ever roll through the Walnut Street Inn, you might get some roasted asparagus on your plate, bright and early in the morning. Any roasted veggies in the morning I think are just fantastic. I love the crispness and the sharpness of asparagus; it goes beautiful with eggs. You could put in a quiche, you could put in a frittata, you could serve it right there raw on the plate. A lot of steakhouses will serve asparagus and Hollandaise sauce. Why can’t you do that in the morning? 

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