We get this question A LOT and I’m not really sure why. I guess restaurants have to fit into a perfect category in order to be comparable to others to have some basis of whether or not you will like us and our food. Personally I don’t like fitting into a perfect category; I like being able to cook. We ask for trust from our customers because some of the dishes we make come from the deepest places of my creative mind and can sometimes be different, but DIFFERENT IS GOOD and TASTY.
So the simple answer to the question is: we cook whatever we want to cook.
The more complex answer to the question is that my cooking comes from inspiration.
First, my wife and my girls inspire me every day to be the best version of myself that I can be. When the days get long, which they do in a professional kitchen, I think of how hard Jennifer works for our family and customers and I push myself to live up to the standards that she has set. When the days get hard, I think of my girls and their beaming smiles and it just fuels me to push myself to work hard so they always have a smile on their faces. These three special ladies allow me to strive for that unattainable perfection that comes with being a chef.
Next, I am inspired by our customers. There are a lot of great dining options in Charlottesville and for people to seek us out and come up our stairs, that makes me very grateful. I am grateful because for everyone who orders a dish they are allowing me to do what I love to do, taking care of people through my cooking. There is a lot of responsibility attached to that, so I work every day to create dishes, no matter how different, that taste great and I hope that they will trust that I would not put something on the menu that I was not 100% happy with.
Third, there are three major motifs that run like veins through my menus fueling the directions that dishes initially take: my childhood growing up in Va (more specifically the Peanut Belt of Va), my young adult time spent in London and my training at The French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center). These three just seem to find their way into a dish even if I am using ingredients that are not normally found in those areas. All three are huge parts of who I am and thus become apart of the menus that I write. I embrace my past so that it will help take the food that I create to the next level.
Last but not least, from my time living in London and San Francisco I developed an understanding for using ingredients to create dishes, as opposed to creating a menu and then seeking out the ingredients. I respect deeply what our farmer partners do everyday to grow the ingredients that we have the privilege to work with everyday. So whenever an ingredient walks up our stairs, I first take it and my mind starts racing about how to best use it. In many cases one ingredient will inspire multiple dishes. Some of the time these dishes do not work at all, some of the time they need to be tweaked and some of the time they work first try. But in all cases I am trying to make the central ingredient the star of the plate and then bring in a supporting cast of ingredients that will enhance it. These farmers have worked so hard to grow these products that for me not to pay as much respect to the product as they did would be disrespecting the farmer, and I will never do that.
So for every dish that we create, it has taken this long journey from my mind to the table and hopefully to the soul of the person enjoying it.