1. Curtis Shaver, Executive Chef, Hamiltons’ At First & Main
Executive Chef Curtis Shaver has established himself as one of the premier culinary minds in Virginia. Chef Curtis has tremendous creative ability, which is showcased daily at Hamiltons’ At First & Main. It’s this creativity that keeps guests coming back. Chef Curtis is now primed to open his own restaurant. Central Virginia will support his concept from the get-go.
2. John Hoffman, Executive Chef, Fossett’s Restaurant at Keswick Hall
John Hoffman is the executive chef at Keswick Hall & Golf Club. Chef John oversees all aspects of Fossett’s Restaurant, Villa Crawford and The Club Grill – the three dining options at Keswick Hall & Golf Club. At Fossett’s Restaurant, Chef John showcases classic cooking techniques influenced by Southern inspirations. His innovative seasonal menus are approachable and contemporary. Fossett’s Restaurant is open to the public. I very much encourage everyone to try Fossett’s Restaurant. It is one of the best dining options in the Mid-Atlantic.
3. Craig Hartman, Grill Master & Owner, BBQ Exchange
Executive Chef Craig Hartman’s love of all things cooking, especially over a live fire, led him to a deep love for old school, slow-cooked BBQ. Inspired by the pit masters he has met over the years, from the Blue Ridge to the Outer Banks, Chef Craig and his wife, Donna, opened BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville, a sleepy little town about 30 minutes outside Charlottesville. Today, BBQ Exchange serves some of the best ‘Que in the nation and is one of the largest employers in Gordonsville (Seriously, I bet there’s not a single business that drives more tax revenue for Gordonsville than BBQ Exchange). Also, BBQ Exchange’s support staff, especially Jaclyn Grieger (Director of Operations, Catering & Special Events), has established the business as one of the top catering and events options in the Commonwealth. They never disappoint.
4. Melissa Close-Hart, Executive Chef & Owner, Junction
Executive Chef Melissa Close-Hart and her staff’s commitment to excellence have earned her induction in the Chaine des Rôtisseurs and five invitations to create dinners at the world renowned James Beard House in New York City. The James Beard Organization has also recognized Chef Melissa as a semi-finalist for “Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic” on four different occasions. Chef Melissa’s new restaurant, Junction, which is located across from The Local in Belmont, has opened to fantastic reviews. Junction is perfect for an intimate dinner for two or a wedding rehearsal soiree.
5. Thomas Rahal, Executive Chef and Owner, Mas Tapas
Executive Chef Tomas Rahal is the owner of Mas Tapas, an acclaimed tapas restaurant located in the heart of Belmont. Without question, Mas Tapas created today’s Belmont culinary and entertainment scene. Chef Tomas boldly built his business in Belmont at a time when the neighborhood was sketchy at best, dangerous at worst. Today, Belmont is an eclectic representation of many of Charlottesville’s best assets, including great food, drinks, music and people. Home owners in Belmont can thank Chef Tomas for their sky-rocketing home valuations. Mas Tapas is one of the best restaurants in Charlottesville and often has lines that wrap around the block. If you have not tried Mas Tapas yet, then you are missing a trip to culinary heaven.
6. Andrew Silver & Ivan Rekosh, Executive Chefs & Co-Owners, Zocalo Restaurant
Zocalo co-owners and chefs Ivan Rekosh and Andrew Silver have been friends since their first day of culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. They have collectively cooked in San Francisco, Maui, Atlanta and Chambéry, France before moving to Charlottesville together in 2002 to fulfill their vision of opening Zocalo Restaurant. They have both since married and started families of their own, and they are proud to be local business owners in the Charlottesville community where they’re raising their kids to eat locally and taste globally. Zocalo has been praised by customers and food critics alike for its consistently excellent food as well as friendly, professional and engaging service. Whether you’re in the mood for a romantic dinner or a lively, energetic bar scene, Zocalo succeeds at covering both options.
7. Dean Maupin, Executive Chef & Owner, C&O Restaurant
Many years ago, Executive Chef Dean Maupin worked at C&O Restaurant for Dave Simpson, the previous owner, who recently passed away. Chef Dean proceeded to work at many other fine dining establishments, including The Greenbrier Resort, The Boar’s Head Inn and The Clifton Inn. Today, Chef Dean is back at C&O Restaurant as the executive chef and owner/operator. C&O was one of the first restaurants to make dining on The Downtown Mall a popular choice. The Downtown Mall was a seedy, sketchy strip of shenanigans, but C&O helped change that perspective. C&O’s late night menu is one of my favorites in CVille.
8. Shawn Hayes, Executive Chef & Owner, Blue Ridge Cafe & Catering Co.
Over the last 21 years, Executive Chef Shawn Hayes has built Blue Ridge Cafe & Catering Co. into a food and beverage behemoth. From a small café to a large café to a sports bar to banquet rooms with off-site catering, Blue Ridge Cafe & Catering Co. is now one of the top employers in Greene County. Chef Shawn and the BRC staff serve delicious, approachable cuisine at fair prices. Chef Shawn, who has been dubbed the “Get ‘Er Done Guy” by friends and family, welcomes guests with a contagious smile and spirit. You can enjoy brunch, lunch, dinner or your favorite sporting event at Blue Ridge Cafe, and you will always leave full and satisfied.
9. Bashir Khelafa, Executive Chef & Owner, Bashir’s Taverna
Executive Chef Bashir Khelafa is the owner/operator at Bashir’s Taverna, which is located on The Downtown Mall near the US Post Office. Chef Bashir has enjoyed acclaim and notoriety from many publications, including The New York Times. Chef Bashir serves super fresh Mediterranean-inspired fare with a personal touch. He does not add preservatives, sugar or anything unusual to his menu. It’s as fresh as it gets. Oftentimes, Chef Bashir will take your order at your table, head back to the kitchen to prepare your meal and then return with the food in-hand, much to your delight. Chef Bashir always remembers your name and will greet you with a handshake or bear hug upon entering his doors.
10. David Morgan, Executive Chef, Tavern & Grocery
David Morgan is the executive chef at Tavern & Grocery. A Culinary Institute of America graduate, who has served as a sous chef to Tucker Yoder at Clifton Inn and Ian Boden at Staunton Grocery, David Morgan has helped Tavern & Grocery establish itself as a go-to dining choice for Charlottesville foodies.
11. Angelo Vangelopoulos, Executive Chef & Owner, The Ivy Inn Restaurant
Executive Chef Angelo Vangelopoulos, the owner and operator of The Ivy Inn, launched his restaurant career at a very young age working for his father, Thomas, a Greek immigrant who came to the United States in search of the American dream. Chef Angelo continued his food education with trips to France, Italy and Greece, learning about the culture of food and wine in Europe. In 1995, Chef Angelo and his father went into business together and purchased The Ivy Inn Restaurant in Charlottesville. The Ivy Inn uses the finest ingredients available from the Central Virginia region and around the world. Chef Angelo composes a daily menu of locally-inspired seasonal American cuisine, showcasing his classical training and cooking heritage. Chef Angelo has developed wonderful relationships with many of Central Virginia’s farmers and promotes the idea of sustainable farming. The Ivy Inn is the perfect spot for any special occasion.
12. Christian Kelly, Executive Chef & Co-Owner, Maya Restaurant
Executive Chef Christian Kelly was lured away from his post at The Clifton Inn in 2006 by Peter Castiglione, an affable and charismatic restaurateur. Together, the dynamic duo launched Maya Restaurant in Midtown Charlottesville. At the time, the concept of “Midtown Charlottesville” did not even exist. Just as Tomas Rahal and Mas Tapas established Belmont as a culinary destination, Chef Christian and Peter (also a co-owner) helped build Midtown Charlottesville from the ground up. In 2007, Chef Christian and Peter opened Maya Restaurant (named after Kelly’s daughter) and, like that, a star was born. Maya Restaurant showcases Central Virginia’s many farmers through simple preparations of Southern cuisine. Maya Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Charlottesville. Period.
13. Michael Berry, Executive Chef, Tastings Restaurant
As the chef for Tastings, Executive Chef Micheal Berry has significant experience selecting the perfect ingredients to pair with the best wines. Chef Micheal and Tastings have withstood the test of time in the super competitive Downtown restaurant space.
14. Chris Humphrey, Executive Chef, Fellini’s #9
After a successful run at Rapture Restaurant, Chris Humphrey is now the executive chef for Jacie Dunkle at Fellini’s #9 on Market Street, one of the best Italian restaurants in Charlottesville.
15. Tucker Yoder, Executive Chef, Timbercreek Market
16. Micheal McCarthy, Executive Chef & Owner, Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie
While waiting tables at The Ivy Inn, Mike McCarthy had a life-altering experience. He was introduced to a beautiful girl named Nancy Payne. Payne, who had restaurant experience of her own at Palladio and Moondance (now closed), would not only one day help McCarthy acquire his own restaurant. She would also become his wife, and the mother of his two children. In 2007, when McCarthy and Nancy were still newlyweds, Nancy overheard that a real estate manager named Ian Wren was looking to sell a pizza place south of Charlottesville. The timing could not have been better. Like many young chefs, McCarthy had been itching to head out on his own, and was particularly interested in purchasing an existing restaurant, preferably nothing fancy. Over time, Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie has established itself as a craft pizza and beer mecca just South of Charlottesville.
17. Toshi Sato, Executive Chef & Owner, Now & Zen
202 2nd St NW, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Toshi Sato, owner and executive chef at Now & Zen, is the genius behind the best sushi restaurant in Charlottesville. Seriously, Chef Toshi’s sushi will stack-up against any sushi on the East Coast.
18. Loren Mendosa, Executive Chef and Owner, Lampo Neapolitan Pizza
Lampo is a Neapolitan-style eatery located next to the Belmont Bridge. Executive Chefs Loren Mendosa and Mitch Beerens have quickly transformed Lampo’s menu into possibly the best pizza option in CVille.
19. Harrison Keevil, Executive Chef & Owner, Keevil & Keevil Grocery & Kitchen
Executive Chef Harrison Keevil’s star continues to rise. After closing Brookville Restaurant on The Downtown Mall to focus on Keevil & Keevil Grocery & Kitchen in Belmont, Chef Harrison and his family are serving CVille in a fantastic fast casual environment. Chef Harrison is one of the top sandwich geniuses in Charlottesville. His brunch and take-home dishes are also a must try.
20. Tommy Lasley, Executive Chef & Part-Owner, Fry’s Spring Station
After a number of years working in some highly-acclaimed New York and Connecticut restaurants, Tommy Lasley relocated to Charlottesville, taking the position of head chef with the talented team at Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar. Here he started reconnecting with his CIA classmate Ben Thompson and immersed himself in the CVille food scene. After a few years at Orzo, and a quick detour back to North Carolina to help open yet another restaurant, Chef Tommy joined forces with Ben to turn Ivy Provisions on Ivy Road into a thriving gourmet sandwich shop. Last year, Tommy, Ben and PK Kamath started a new restaurant venture together and purchased Fry’s Spring Station, which is absolutely crushing it in the Jefferson Park Avenue neighborhood.
21. Tristan Wraight, Executive Chef & Owner, Oakhart Social
Tristan Wraight, the executive chef and co-owner at Oakhart Social in Midtown, has turned Oakhart into a must try for any CVille foodie.
22. Brian Jones, Executive Chef, The Alley Light
In 2016, Executive Chef Brian Jones left his post at Petit Pois Restaurant to fill the same post at the newly minted Timberwood Taphouse in 5th Street Station. After launching Timberwood Taphouse, Chef Brian left to fill the executive chef position at The Alley Light.
23. Brian Helleberg, Executive Chef & Owner, Petit Pois and Fleurie
Fleurie: 108 3rd St NE, Charlottesville, VA 22902
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Brian Helleberg grows his own produce in his home garden. Much of the produce featured on the Fleurie Restaurant and Petit Pois Restaurant menus are straight from Chef Brian’s home. That’s fresh!
Executive Chef Brian Helleberg is the owner of Petit Pois Restaurant and Fleurie Restaurant. While each restaurant has its own personality, ambiance and menu, they nevertheless embody Chef Brian’s commitment to locally-sourced food, attention to detail and flawless execution. Petit Pois Restaurant and Fleurie Restaurant are two of the best dining options in Charlottesville.
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