Food stars—they’re just like us!

Eze Amos

Around here, the folks cooking your favorite foods are as close to celebrities as some of us get (unless you’re lucky enough to corner Dave Matthews on the mall). So, for this year’s annual Food & Drink Issue, we decided to take a look behind the scenes—beyond your pork belly tacos and pain de campagne—at where our chefs, sous chefs, bar managers, retailers, bakers, and brewers eat on their off-hours, how they source hard-to-find ingredients, and what they crave when no one’s looking. (No surprise there: They like fast-food fried chicken as much as the rest of us—and some aren’t even ashamed to say it).

Bodo’s by pros

We don’t know about you, but if someone surrounded by delicious food all day has a go-to Bodo’s order, that’s a combo we’re interested in taste-testing (even if we do just end up right back at an everything BLT with mayo, cut in half).

“Egg sausage on plain with American, because I am a garbage person.” PK Ross, owner, Splendora’s Gelato


“Breakfast: everything bagel with cream cheese and extra bacon; lunch: everything bagel with smoked turkey, cheddar, mayo, lettuce, onions, heated.” Melissa Close-Hart, chef, Junction


“Depends if I’m hungover or feeling healthy. Healthy: egg white on everything. Hungover (or indulgent): two deli egg bagels, one salt, one garlic, and a chicken salad on everything for lunch. Large Coke Zero.” Hunter Smith, owner, Champion Brewing Company; co-founder, Brasserie Saison


“Easy. Chicken or egg salad on a sesame bagel with provolone, watercress, and cucumbers, a large Arnold Palmer, a bag of chips, a pickle spear.” Kate Collier, owner, Feast!


“Kale Caesar salad. I rarely have a bagel there—I really enjoy that salad—but if I do it is whole wheat, hummus, avocado, and sprouts.” Gerry Newman, baker/owner, Albemarle Baking Co.


“BLT on sesame with mustard and onion. Not so good for the breath department, but delicious.” Anita Gupta, owner, Maliha Creations


“Smoked turkey with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a sesame bagel.” Phyllis Hunter, owner, The Spice Diva


“BLT with mayo and avocado on an everything bagel.” Priscilla Martin Curley, general manager/wine director, Tavola


“Chicken salad on an onion bagel with muenster cheese, tomato, and sprouts with a side of tabbouleh.” Laura Fonner, chef, Duner’s

@chefhartman

Barbeque Exchange chef/owner Craig Hartman exposes the underbelly—and the ribs—of owning the area’s favorite spot for ’cue (plus the occasional picture of his trusty Husky, Fiona).

@apimentocatering

Treats for the eye and the stomach fill this feed, as well as a look at the business’ collaboration dinners with Williams Corner Wine and what APimento owner Gay Beery is excited to cook up each season.

Pour me another

We know “time off” is a foreign concept for most restaurant folk, but we wanted to know where they travel when they need a tipple. Lesson learned? There’s no discriminating. Bars, breweries, cideries, wineries—we’re a little buzzed just thinking about it.

“Wifey and I like going out to King Family, especially in the spring and fall for a bottle of rosé on their patio—beautiful scenery and great wine. Their winemaker, Matthieu, is a graduate of our Cocktail 101 class, and also he’s a curious dude who has a lot to say about balance in beverages. Naturally we are kindred spirits.” Micah LeMon, bar manager, The Alley Light


“When I have friends in town I do try to do the 151 Route with them, hitting as many places from Blue Ridge Brewery to Bold Rock as possible, and always ending at King Family for some Crosé Rosé.” Melissa Close-Hart, chef, Junction


“Beer Run. Been a regular since 2009 and although I can always feel curious eyes on my checkout purchases, I’m a creature of habit. Also loving what’s happening at North American Sake Brewery and what Peter from Côte-Rôtie is doing in the kitchen there. That’s a major addition to the scene.” Hunter Smith, owner, Champion Brewing Company; co-founder, Brasserie Saison


“The cicchetti bar at Tavola is our spot. We love Steve and Rebecca’s drinks, especially the Vesper. We love to pit them against each other by telling them the other one makes the best.” Phyllis Hunter, owner, The Spice Diva


“We love Devils Backbone because it reminds us of being at one of Germany’s wonderful small breweries in a beautiful mountain setting.” Jerome Thalwitz, chef/owner, The Bavarian Chef


“The bar at Maya is our staff go-to after a long night of service when we want to get together and blow off some steam. Ted is a true pro and we always enjoy catching up with him.” Angelo Vangelopoulos, chef/owner, The Ivy Inn


“As of late, I’ve enjoyed sitting at the bar at The Bebedero. It’s quite amusing watching the bartenders make their special concoctions. I usually go there for a drink, at most two, or I won’t make it down the stairs to go home—ha!” Julie Vu Whitaker, chef/owner, Vu Noodles


“C&O downstairs and Fellini’s #9.” Javier Figueroa-Ray, chef/owner, Pearl Island

Fresh flavors

For all our talk about buying local, there are some things that just can’t be found in fair Charlottesville. Here’s where the more exotic ingredients are coming from.

“Our bar specializes in Italian bittersweet liqueurs known as amaro. While we get them from our ABC stores, they can be hard to come by and it’s generally a race to buy them between many of the bars in town. We special order a lot—we’re above 30 and counting!” Steve Yang, bar manager, Tavola


“Portuguese sausage has become a favorite on our breakfast bowls at the City Market. I can’t find any distributor locally, so I have to import that from Hawaii on dry ice.” Riki Tanabe, chef/owner, Mochiko


“Hatch Chilis are a great addition to so many dishes and can only be grown in New Mexico. I get them once a year when they are roasted at a local supermarket, but I order them straight from Hatch the rest of the year. The roasted and dried red Hatch ristras make a gorgeous decoration and bring good luck.” Phyllis Hunter, owner, The Spice Diva


“Mussels, because mountains. So we source from Prince Edward Island.” Hunter Smith, co-founder, Brasserie Saison


“Oh boy, Asian ingredients are more available in Charlottesville now than they were 16 years ago, but we still don’t have a lot of choices when it comes to type of rice noodles and herbs. I have to source noodles and lemongrass in bulk in Richmond.” Julie Vu Whitaker, chef/owner, Vu Noodles

Frequent flyers

In the spirit of community over competition, we asked a few local food folks to tell us where they go when they get time off—correction: if they get time off.

“I would have to say The Alley Light, though in reality when I get time off it’s mostly a delivery situation (Druknya House chilay khatsu forever). But if I’m going out, there’s always something I didn’t know I was craving until I read it on the menu board at The Alley Light. Plus their reserve wine list gives me feelings.” PK Ross, owner, Splendora’s Gelato


“Druknya House on Fontaine Avenue. We don’t know much about Tibetan food and don’t cook it at home, so it is fun to discover new things every time we go. Our latest discovery is the brown mushroom appetizer: plump mushroom caps filled with savory barley flour and baked, then drizzled with salty browned butter. So simple. So good.” Kate Collier, owner, Feast!


“Al Carbon. I love the chicken tacos.” Antwon Brinson, owner, Culinary Concepts AB


“Probably Oakhart Social. They are so good with our kids, the food is delicious, and their cocktails are perfect.” Harrison Keevil, chef/owner, Keevil & Keevil Grocery and Kitchen; chef, Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar

 


“My partner, Tina, and I love two places in particular—Citizen Burger and Tilman’s. [And] in Crozet, where we live, we love The Rooftop. The menu is well-honed and well-executed time and time again. Favorite dish is the goat cheese bucatini. I could swim in the bowl, it is that good.” Rachel Pennington, owner, The Pie Chest


“Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria. Seasoning is always spot-on, bold flavors, the specials are on point, and service is amazing.” John Hoffman, chef, Keswick Hall


“Tacos Gomez truck is just my favorite taco in town. Al Pastor for the torta and cabeza for the tacos are always fantastic.” Steve Yang, bar manager, Tavola


“Riverside. Best burger in the country. Better than In-N-Out, and every other major competitor. Consistently delicious every time I go.” Tim Devino, sous chef, Brasserie Saison

War wounds

Everybody’s got one (and then some). We asked eight chefs to tell us about their most lasting kitchen scars.

“I took the tops off my pointer finger and middle finger on two separate occasions. On both of those occasions, my children were two weeks old. The first was with a knife and the second with a stick blender.” Harrison Keevil, chef/owner, Keevil & Keevil Grocery and Kitchen; chef, Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar


“I have a slight scar on the back of my right hand from hot sugar spattering up out of a pot. I got it off as fast as I could and remember saying, ‘That’s going to leave a mark.’” Gerry Newman, owner, Albemarle Baking Co.


“About a year ago, not long after I started up Mochiko, I was cooking at home and forgot the oil was on the stove outside. The oil got so hot that it ignited, and began melting the siding off of the house. I went through both fire extinguishers, but when that failed, my inner genius told me that I should grab the pot with both hands (don’t try this at home), and throw it off into the yard, setting the grass on fire instead. By the time the fire truck came, I was watering the yard, and my arm. After dropping off the catering order (all bandaged up, but on time), I had a friend drive me to the hospital, where I was treated for third-degree burns all up my left arm, neck, and face.” Riki Tanabe, chef/owner, Mochiko


“Two weeks before my wedding I was cooking soft shell crabs and had them explode in my pan, sending hot butter flying up in the air and landing all down the side of my face, neck, and arms. I looked like a cheetah. I cried for a few days (the bride inside me couldn’t help it), but thank goodness for professional makeup and airbrushing.” Laura Fonner, chef, Duner’s


“Burns…So. Many. Of. Them. Hot sugar is not very forgiving and your first instinct is to rub it right off—taking off a layer of skin with it.” Anita Gupta, owner, Maliha Creations


“One time I had a hot dog special with 12 toppings, and a customer ordered it with all the toppings on the side. That was pretty scarring, emotionally.” Jon Bray, chef, Champion Brewing Company


“I have a bunch of dark spots on my hand and right arm from flipping a rack of lamb and the oil splashed all over me. Lesson learned: Always flip away from you.” Tim Devino, sous chef, Brasserie Saison


“The one on my left-hand index finger. I was ‘steeling’ my chef knife on a honing rod and whacked it as the blade was coming off the top side of the rod. I cut it to the bone and likely could’ve used some stitches, but who has time for that?” Angelo Vangelopoulos, chef/owner, The Ivy Inn

Kryptonite

No one is safe from cravings, not even those dishing out the most delicious plates in town. What can’t your favorite chefs resist? We asked, they answered (with less shame than we expected).

“Rice Krispies treats. Homemade with salty French butter, though.” Kate Collier, owner, Feast!


“Krispy Kreme donuts fresh off the line.” Jerome Thalwitz, chef, The Bavarian Chef


“Hardee’s has the single best chain fast-food breakfast. Biscuits made fresh every day. So good, they can’t be beat.” Tim Devino, sous chef, Brasserie Saison


“Hot, melty cheese food (like Velveeta) on just about anything.” Ian Glomski, owner, Vitae Spirits


“Ben & Jerry’s chunky monkey. I can eat the entire pint in one go.” Anita Gupta, owner, Maliha Creations


“McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. Guilty? Absolutely. If you watch YouTube videos about how these little turds are made, you get to see that you’re kind of actually eating turds. Delightful and delicious turds. But embarrassed? No way. It’s delicious by way of scientists in a lab making things taste good with the power of science.” Jon Bray, chef, Champion Brewing Company


“It’s totally McDonald’s! I got caught there by a friend one afternoon, standing in line with my kids for the $1 ice cream sundae (my favorite is caramel with nuts). The friend laughed with a ‘gotcha!’ Of course I was embarrassed and confessed my weakness for the perfect size caramel sundae. Did I mention I’m lactose intolerant?” Julie Vu Whitaker, chef/owner, Vu Noodles


Triscuits. I’ll eat a whole box in an afternoon.” John Hoffman, chef, Keswick Hall


“#6 at Wendy’s. Spicy Chicken Sando all the way.” Tristan Wraight, chef/owner, Oakhart Social

@shefarmsinfreeunion

The sun rising over a field of chickens, a gang of cows about to drop the hottest album of 2018, an excited duckling on a sunny October day—the feed from Free Union Grass Farm’s Erica Hellen gives a glimpse into farm life.

@foodphotographer

Two words: food porn. Local food photographer Tom McGovern shares what he’s capturing, from burgers at Citizen to his latest C-VILLE Weekly assignment.

Tools of the trade

Chefs can get pretty particular about a variety of things—mise en place, freshness of ingredients—but nothing compares to the selection of the knife. Here are the varieties that make the cut.

Togiharu Hammered Texture Damascus Gyutou. “I love Japanese steel and methods for making Japanese knives, but I also am most comfortable with the shapes of Western knives. This knife is the best of both worlds, plus it is amazingly beautiful. I’ve owned it for six-plus years.” Melissa Close-Hart, chef, Junction

 

 


A dull knife. “When I started at the Jar, they gave me the dullest knife in the house because as a baker, I only needed to cut butter. Butter actually slices/cubes much better when using a dull knife. So, my favorite knife is the dullest knife on the board! It accidentally was put in the oven once (don’t ask) and part of its handle is melted. It’s falling apart, but it cuts butter like a gem.” Rachel Pennington, chef/owner, The Pie Chest


Victorinox. “My culinary school knife was 10-inch F. Dick. I used it for 20 years. Now I love Victorinox knives. Lighter and easier to keep sharp.” Martha Stafford, owner, Charlottesville Cooking School


Japanese Yaxell, Super Gou 161. “It’s my favorite because my beau got it for me for Christmas. It fits my hand perfectly.” Jenny Peterson, chef/owner, Paradox Pastry


Monolith Chef. “Zack [Worrell] made me a custom 7-inch knife with locust from my family farm in Pennsylvania.” John Hoffman, chef, Keswick Hall


Togiharu Nakiri. “I love the VG-10 steel cord; this allows it to keep its edge for an extended period and it’s super easy to sharpen. I also appreciate the rounded handle and the balance of the bland-to-handle ratio.” Antwon Brinson, owner, Culinary Concepts AB


MAC 8 1/2-inch chef knife. “It’s inexpensive and easy to keep sharp. I take it everywhere I go.” Angelo Vangelopoulos, chef/owner, The Ivy Inn


All the knives. “I have too many knives. I change knives all the time. I can use 10 knives in one day depending on my mood, what I’m using it for, or the music I’m playing.” Javier Figueroa-Ray, chef/owner, Pearl Island

Secret sauce

Salty, sweet, sour, bitter—our taste buds register all four (and don’t forget umami). But what’s the secret ingredient on local menus? Here’s what the foodies say of their own.

“Butter, of course.” Jason Becton, chef/co-owner, MarieBette Café & Bakery


“Bitterness. In Caribbean and African cuisine, they use bitterness as complexity; as we do with sweet, salty, sour, etc. A touch of bitterness in a dish enhances the sour element and complements the sweet.” Antwon Brinson, owner, Culinary Concepts AB


“We have a tendency toward European dessert richness as opposed to sticky sweet. Read: Butt’ah.” Jenny Peterson, chef/owner, Paradox Pastry


“Lemon.” Martha Stafford, owner, Charlottesville Cooking School


“Whiskey and bitters by a long shot. There’s a joke in the industry that “vodka pays the bills,” but it is definitely whiskey for us. Our old fashioned has a twist of an Italian red wine reduction, and is consistently our most popular drink.” Steve Yang, bar manager, Tavola


“Sesame.” Riki Tanabe, chef/owner, Mochiko


“I use a good amount of our housemade spice mix that we lovingly call Cowgirl Spice. It’s a combination of New Mexican dried chili, coriander, cumin, Mexican oregano, and a few secret ingredients.” Melissa Close-Hart, chef, Junction


“Beer! Whenever I research a recipe, if it calls for water, I try and see if a type of Champion beer would enhance it. For example: three cups of water for a pickle brine? Pfff. How about a double IPA instead?” Jon Bray, chef, Champion Brewing Company


“Butter. I mean, its not even close. We use a lot.” Tim Devino, sous chef, Brasserie Saison