No matter which region you’re in, Virginia has an impressive culinary scene, with dozens of notable chefs creating inspired dishes from locally sourced ingredients that bring the best flavors of the Commonwealth together in uniquely delicious ways. To shine a spotlight on the best eats in Virginia, we talked with a few of these chefs, from the award-winning seasoned professionals to the rising stars that have garnered attention in national and even international publications. Follow our “Inside the Kitchen” series as we take a look at all there is to Eat.Drink.LOVE in Virginia!
Located in the historic Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia, Alewife serves Mid-Atlantic Seafood, celebrating the coastal waters of the Mid Atlantic region with an eye towards conservation and sustainability.
Photo Credit: Lee Gregory
Alewife’s Chef, Lee Gregory, is a three-time James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for best chef Mid-Atlantic and StarChef Rising Star. Though raised in South Carolina, Chef Gregory has a long culinary history in Virginia, having worked under chef Dale Reitzer at Acacia in Richmond for five years before moving to Six Burner, then Mockingbird in Staunton, and Blue Light Grill in Charlottesville. Lee returned to Richmond in 2011 to open The Roosevelt in Church Hill where he served as co-owner and Executive Chef from 2011-2018. In 2014, he helped open Bon Air favorite, Southbound, where is currently co-owner and chef. Alewife is Lee’s first solo venture.
Want to know more about Alewife and Chef Gregory? Read on to learn about some of his chef secrets followed by one of Chef Gregory’s favorite recipes!
What makes the Central Virginia region unique when it comes to food?
The region is so great because of agriculture and waterways! Not many places can you get from the coast to the mountains in just a few hours. It really gives us all we could ask for as Virginians.
Do you have a few go-to producers, farms, or other purveyors you prefer to get your local ingredients from?
We try to buy as local as we can, using the mid Atlantic as a blueprint and then shrinking it down towards Richmond, the closer the better. We’ve been using several local farmer's like Sweet Grass farms and Cabbage Hill, Paul Schofield the mushroom guy, and we use watermen like the Waltons in Urbanna when they have available products.
What are some of your favorite Virginia flavors?
I really love roasted fall squashes, puréed, charred and grilled, or roasted and caramelized, and charred cabbage, grilled radicchio, or crispy bitter endive! We cook with cider as well!
What is your favorite thing to cook for yourself?
One of my favorite things to eat is braised short ribs, I love them. It’s a real guilty pleasure and one of the things I don’t get to eat that often because my family doesn’t really love them. So when we have them at work I always try to get a snack of scraps or crooked end pieces.
What Virginia craft beverage would you pair with this recipe?
I like sticking with cider to drink with food, so crisp and acidic, really cuts the richness of heavy braised or slow cooked foods and a great way to start a meal too. I have a stash of Foggy Ridge that I’ve been holding on that would be fitting.
Where is your favorite place to vacation in Virginia?
My wife is from Hampton Roads, so most of our Virginian vacations or getaways are to the water. Whether it be a trip to Matthews, a day trip to Virginia Beach, or a stop by my in-laws in Williamsburg, it always involves the coast for us. And usually a dock!
Chef Recipe Spotlight: Grilled Cabbage with Bottarga, Parmesan Cream, & Hazelnuts
Photo Credit: Lee Gregory
- 1 head Savoy cabbage
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 oz bottarga
- 2 oz hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Light your grill and let it cook down to embers so it doesn’t torch the cabbage right away.
- Take your cream and let it cook to medium heat, then whisk in your cheese and mix to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside and keep warm.
- Split your cabbage in quarters, leaving the core in place to keep the cabbage in wedges. Season with salt and pepper, then let it for 40 minutes to “cure” and season the cabbage, also letting moisture seep out.
- Evenly coat your cabbage in oil, sear and char the cabbage over the embers, then offset the cabbage so it is not directly on the flames and let it cook over the heat until tender, approximately 15 minutes.
- When your cabbage is cooked through, move to 4 plates, spoon on the Parmesan cream, and season with lemon zest and lemon juice. Shave the bottarga over it with a micro plane or grater. Garnish with the toasted nuts.
Looking for more incredibly tasty recipes from Virginia’s top chefs? Stay tuned for more Inside the Kitchen articles and check out these other articles in the chef series:
- Chef Truman Jones of the Tides Inn—Baked Rappahannock Oysters “Chesapeake” (& several cocktail recipes!)
- Chef Rose Moot of Pico Taqueria—Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
- Chef Brian Noyes of Red Truck Bakery—Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake
- Chef Mikey Reisenberg of Mashita—Black Trumpet Truffle Pasta
- Chef Jose Arevalos of Woodstock Cafe—Pomegranate Burrata Squash Salad
- Chef Rachel FitzGerald of Magpie Dinery—Apple Bacon Cheddar Sandwich
- Chef Dale Ford of Devils Backbone Brewing Company—Braised Short Ribs with White Cheddar Byrd Mill Truffle Grits, Crispy Brussels, & Simple Sauce