how a restaurant really works. If you
work at four three-star restaurants in
one year, what do you have? A handful
of tricks and a few cool dishes you have
ripped off. Work. Stay on a job. Don’t get
fired. Don’t show up late. Just because
you worked at one or two shit-hot
restaurants for six months each, and can
replicate someone else’s food, doesn’t
mean you’re doing a great job. Many kids
don’t have any idea what they‘re doing
or why they are doing it. They want glory.
They want to be rock stars. They think
they’re ready for the big time, but they
haven’t eaten enough or worked enough.
This is why so many restaurants fail. You
can’t jump steps.
how important is going to school
versus learning on the job?
lg: Culinary school gives you a little bit
of groundwork and vocabulary, a little
history and a sense of what’s going on.
But it doesn’t necessarily teach you how
to cook. Is culinary school necessary?
Absolutely not. Still, it’s what got me in
the door at Acacia. I have Dale to thank
for everything. I say, get a four-year
education at a college or university and
work on the side at restaurants. Get life
and work experience behind you. You
can learn everything you need to learn if
the right people teach you and look over
you on the job. Show interest and drive.
Your mentors will reward you more than
on any other job.
how is Richmond evolving?
lg: Five, six, eight, 10 years ago,
Richmond had six to eight great
restaurants. Then, about four years
ago, people who worked in these places
got their chance. Now we have 20—a
really great boon for a second-tier city
like Richmond. Rather than fighting
each other by nickel-and-diming it in
the press, we learned pretty quickly
that if we collaborated with each other,
your philosophy about
changing your menu?
I don’t know if I have a philosophy,
but by the time we get tired of
cooking it, it’s time to move on. We
change everything. Only two things
are still with us. Still, if it’s great,
it’s sure hard to dump it. Generally,
we have the same components:
a starch, vegetable and sauce,
but the fish changes in season.
Our menus are kind of the same
but kind of different. When we get
sick of cleaning ramps, asparagus
or shucking peas, it’s tomato and
watermelon season. Then, when
there are so many tomatoes you
don’t want to see another one, it’s
time to switch. That’s when I want to
go back to basics and do short ribs.
Ethel Hammer is a writer, lecturer and
cartoonist based in Chicago.
we could raise more awareness and
get more attention for all of us. That’s
just the simple truth. Richmond is a
completely wonderful ride for all of us.
Suddenly we have a dynamite bakery
opening up, and a couple of markets.
A few neighborhoods got gentrified.
These neighborhoods blew up. Then the
restaurants in these neighborhoods blew
up, and, suddenly, you’re on a roll. I was
33 and looking at doing a restaurant.
Church Hill, where my partner Kendra
Feather and I opened The Roosevelt,
was all I could afford. It was all a lot of
young families could afford, too. Now
The Roosevelt is full of young folks and
young professionals who go out to eat.
It’s like catching lightning in a bottle,
a happy little accident that was never
supposed to be what it is. But don’t get
me wrong, I’ll take it.