In this multi-part series, we explore American locations emerging as dining destinations. We have profiled a sampling of chefs, their concepts which bring bold or brilliant offering to market plus cover how they are employing social media to showcase themselves. This report was made possible with research conducted on behalf of McCormick For Chefs.
Virginia’s scenic capital punches above its weight on the national culinary scene. The Fire, Flour and Fork Festival showcases some of the top local talent and draws chefs from across the country. The sense of history present in the grand old halls and cobblestone streets of downtown Richmond are, equally to the food, part of the festival experience. The city’s place at the gateway to the American south and its proximity to the Atlantic ocean give chefs endless inspiration. From buttermilk biscuits to topnotch oysters, the American classics are alive and well here.
Tuffy Stone at Q Barbeque Follow @tuffystone
Tuffy Stone is a giant on the national barbecue circuit and proudly calls Richmond home. He became nicknamed “The Professor” (Tuffy is itself a nickname – he also answers to George) for his scientific curiosity on all things related to the ‘que. The multiple year winner of the Jack Daniels World BBQ Champion keeps his style simple, relying on hickory wood smoke for classic takes on pulled pork, smoked ribs and other barbeque staples. He is the founder of Q Barbeque in Richmond, with four popular locations.
Tuffy’s Instagram is home to all the good, rib-stickin’ barbeque classics that you’d hope for from a veteran pitmaster. It’s garnered him a healthy 15,000 followers.
Mike Ledesma at RRGVA Follow @mike_ledesma00
Richmond Restaurant’s young corporate executive chef has risen quickly up the ranks. From working behind the line at Patina to helming five of Richmond’s most acclaimed restaurants in just a few years speaks to his ambition and drive.
RRG’s concepts are focused on showcasing the best of fresh local seafood. Wholesome fish dishes are plated with color and flair for a fast casual dining experience that emphasizes quality and freshness of ingredients.
Chef Ledesma’s Instagram account is telling of his passion for high quality seafood. From crab to oysters to intricate maki rolls, his enthusiasm is never exhausted.
Joe Sparatta at Heritage and Southbound Follow @jsparatta
Joe Sparatta may be a native of New Jersey, but he’s proven he understands Richmond to a tee. Heritage took Richmond Magazine’s Best New Restaurant 2013 and made Southern Living Magazine’s list of 100 best restaurants in the south in 2014.
The menu at Heritage bears a decided east Asian influence – expect appearances from kimchi and bok choy, but also nods to Sparatta’s Jersey Italian upbringing, including a pretty classic orecchiete Bolognese made with locally sourced pork.
Chef Sparatta’s Instagram show’s him to be a true chef’s chef – he’s got beautiful finished plates, top quality produce, seafood, and tools of the culinary trade.
Dale Reitzer at Acacia Follow @acaciamidtown
Chef Reitzer is more than a chef, he’s an educator. His cooks are more than cooks to him, they’re tomorrow’s great chefs under his guidance. Acacia is like a school to his cooks and a second home to his actual family; Reitzer’s wife manages the front of house and his children, 10 and 13, help out running dishes and bread. Their sacrifice hasn’t gone unnoticed – Reitzer is a four time nominee for James Beard Award for best chef, mid-Atlantic.
Acacia’s short, focused menu changes seasonally and leans toward seafood and local meat handled with a simple, modern American touch.
Acacia’s Instagram is a series of elegantly composed finished plates and artfully arranged drinks.
Chef Lee Gregory at Roosevelt Follow @chefleegregory
A South Carolina native, Chef Gregory came under the tutelage of Chef Dale Reitzer. From Reitzer, Gregory claims he gained appreciation not only for excellent cooking, but for the beautiful city of Richmond. After branching out, Chef Gregory returned to Richmond to open Roosevelt. He’s been thrice nominated for a James Beard award, best chef mid-Atlantic.
Roosevelt’s menu stays in the upscale, American modern tent, but occasionally veers towards playful decadence, as in Southern poutine – fries smothered with pimento cheese, sausage gravy and pickles.
Chef Gregory’s Instagram account shows his elegant Virigina-style cooking – fish, pork and local, colorful vegetables star on these plates.
Leo Moncel is a food writer, photographer and emerging social media professional. He draws on years of experience as a line cook and a hands-on knowledge of regional cuisines to inform his work. He is one half of the foodie adventure team @appetitetours.