Thinking on his feet: Hamiltons' welcomes new chef

When long-time Hamilton's chef Jeanette Peabody announced she was leaving to pursue motherhood, owners Bill and Kate Hamilton took their time deciding on a replacement.

"In its 17 years, Hamiltons' has been blessed with a dedicated and loyal staff.  We really are an extended family," says Bill Hamilton. "We give a great deal of thought to 'fit' when we bring in new hires."

The right fit? Chef Curtis Shaver.

"Kate, Greg [Vogler, assistant manager ], Daniel [Page, GM], and I grew confident as we proceeded through the interview process that Curtis would be successful both in creating a home at Hamiltons' and in sharing his culinary gifts with our customers," says Hamilton.

Shaver's career actually started in a high school home economics class, and would take off after he met a popular Charlottesville chef. 

The fancy Glen Iris Inn in upstate New York, where Shaver grew up, was looking for a prep cook, and, like a coach helping a high school prospect, Shaver's home-ec teacher put in a word for her student. Some years later, local chef Craig Hartman, who left the high-end Fossett's at Keswick Hall to focus on creative BBQ, was looking for a fry cook for the dining halls he was in charge of at Cornell University. Hartman was also executive chef at Statler Hotel, the hotel and hospitality service operated by Cornell University. It would prove to be a fortuitous relationship, as Shaver quickly went from fry cook to the line.

Shaver says he developed a love of cooking with the big family breakfasts his mother made on the weekends. After the prep cook gig, he decided to enroll in Pittsburg Culinary Institute, and his internships took him to places like Niagara Falls, and he also learned the rules and intricacies of kosher cooking along the way.

When Hartman found himself heading up the kitchen at Keswick, he recruited Shaver and brought him to Charlottesville. After that, Shaver found himself working as a sous chef at Duner's on Ivy Road.

“Duner’s was a great experience. The menu changes daily and sometimes, when the really popular entrées would sell out, we had to think on our feet to come up with something new. It was often challenging but also fun,” says Shaver. “What I love about cooking is creating the experience for the customer. The reward is when they are overjoyed with what they just ate.”

Meanwhile, he's been busy getting his "sea legs" in Hamiltons' kitchen.

"I’m excited in my first top chef role," says Shaver. "I have a chance to show what I can do.”



Celebrate new ciders
Last October, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declared a week in November as our first official cider week, capping off a five-year expansion of the hard cider industry in Central Virginia. The trend got its start in 2009 when then Governor Tim Kaine attended the grand opening of the Albemarle CiderWorks just down 29 South. Soon after that, the sprawling Castle Hill estate in Keswick debuted its cidery, and then Bold Rock Cidery in Nellysford opened. Now the Albemarle CiderWorks has announced the arrival of two new ciders, “Red Hill,” a rich, slightly tannic brew unique to the CiderWorks orchard, and “Pomme Mary,” a new sweeter cider.

To celebrate, the folks at Albemarle CiderWorks are planning a big weekend March 9 and 10 featuring old time, traditional folk music with Alex Caton, and some traditional Irish music from Patrick & Aaron Olwell and Friends. All five ciders will be available for tastings, and food will be available. Check out for more information.


Downtown wine festival announced
Okay, wine lovers, start getting excited and mark your calendars. The nTelos Wireless Pavilion just announced the line-up for the second annual Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival on Saturday, April 13 from noon to 6pm. Seriously, this event– which was an enormous success last year– brings together in one spot, for one afternoon, all the best that Virginia has to offer the wine enthusiast. This year, over 30 wineries will be on hand. Some tickets include parking and early access, and folks are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets and make a picnic of it. VIP tickets, however, include heavy hors d’oeuvres from the C&O Restaurant, an opportunity to sample wines not available to public yet, and some special facetime with wine-makers. For more information about the event, and a list of participating wineries, visit