In the Crest Gastropub, Dustin Brafford has finally found his home. It just took the Columbus-born chef two years living overseas to find it.

In the Crest Gastropub, Dustin Brafford has finally found his home. It just took the Columbus-born chef two years living overseas to find it.

Brafford had a few odds-and-ends cooking jobs in Ohio before he met a Lebanese restaurateur during a reality cooking show audition. The reality show didn't pan out, but that chance encounter turned into a life-changing opportunity for the young chef. He moved to Beirut and helped the restaurateur launch several successful restaurants, including a Spanish tapas bar and a Tex-Mex place.

While there, Brafford stayed in contact with an Ohio friend who is the Anheuser-Busch sales representative on Ohio State's campus and who works closely with Ali AlShahal, owner of several Campus bars. AlShahal started talking about his plans to open a gastropub in Clintonville, and Brafford's friend relayed the information.

"I was pretty excited about what he had going on with this place, and I was really excited about what was happening in Columbus," Brafford says. "There are so many like-minded young people doing such cool things."

So he moved back from Lebanon in January, and threw himself fully into the task of revamping the old Crest Tavern into the shiny new Crest Gastropub, which opened its doors at the end of April and is already hugely popular among the neighborhood folks who eagerly watched its transition from dive bar to rustic-modern restaurant.

Brafford quickly set to work creating a gastropub menu of snacks, sandwiches, salads and burgers with a slight Mediterranean influence, all meant to be paired with craft brews. A wood-fired oven will allow for pizzas and hearty entrees, like meatloaf and a salmon pot pie.

He'll be able to tailor the menu around seasonal ingredients grown on a rooftop garden. The plan is to grow herbs, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, kale and more with the help of Trish Clark, who heads a community gardening program for food advocacy group Local Matters.

Coming soon are seasonal four-course pairing dinners on Sundays and monthly cooking classes revolving around garden-to-plate cooking.

And Brafford has no plans to stop working with AlShahal's group of bars and restaurants.

"They're Lebanese-this is my family. I'm going nowhere," Brafford says. "I intend to stick with these guys and grow and see where it takes us."