Craig Hartman’s Rising Star pick: Curtis Shaver of Hamiltons’ at First & Main


Photo: Justin Ide Photo: Justin Ide

“Many young chefs flair up like a meteor flashing across the sky,” says Craig Hartman. “But a chef that spends a lifetime toiling in the kitchen has to have everything it takes to run a marathon of consistency.”

According to Hartman, Curtis Shaver of Hamiltons’, at 31, has what it takes.

Hartman first met Shaver when he hired him as a cook at Cornell University. Years later, Hartman recruited Shaver to come to Charlottesville to join him in the kitchen at Fossett’s. Shaver eventually moved on to become a sous chef at the beloved Duner’s restaurant, a position he held until earlier this year, when he took his first head chef job, at Hamiltons’.

There, Shaver is letting loose, using what he calls “a modern Southern approach to good honest food,” with some Mediterranean and other worldly flavors thrown in, like the ancho chili, one of his favorite ingredients.

“It is a staple in a lot of my recipes,” says Shaver. “I like the dark roasted flavor it has, and the subtle sweet-to-heat ratio.”

Shaver sees the Charlottesville food scene as one that’s gaining momentum alongside the local food movement, with simple preparations of ingredient-driven food, freshly sourced from the area’s rich agricultural tradition.

He thinks that lends itself well to a customer base that wants dining to feel casual and comfortable.

“I think that the general public isn’t eating as much or wanting to sit down for hours at a time,” he says. “Good quality food that’s not very hard to explain to the customers”—that’s what he is striving to make. “I’m not trying to do anything too overly sophisticated for anybody.”


Chef’s choice

Sandwich: The Fardowner’s smoked pastrami rueben with tater tots. Make it dirty by adding jalapeños.

Burger: The Bison Burger at Beer Run. Goes great with a Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ by Lagunitas Brewing, or whatever Noles suggests.

Dessert: Cookies and Cream ice cream at home and Netflix.

Cocktail: Does it get any better than a greyhound at the C&O?

Virginia wine: Barboursville Octagon

Virginia beer: Starr Hill’s Grateful, easy drinkin’.

Breakfast: Two eggs over easy with hash browns, corned beef hash, wheat toast, coffee, OJ, glass of water, and hot sauce from Tip Top.

Guilty pleasure: Dumplings From Marco & Luca’s and Spudnuts.

Pizza: The Bellissima from Dr. Ho’s. Roasted tomatoes,Turner country ham,arugula salad

Appetizer: Soup dumplings from Taste of China

Taco: Mercedes and Shelia’s staff lunch at Duner’s. Love those girls.

Bodo’s order: Sausage and egg on an everything bagel with muenster, tomato, and pepper relish.

Local ingredient: Any greens grown at Double H Farm. Richard and Arra are great people and grow great produce. They got some tasty pigs too!