Mockingbird sings: Staunton's new local focal point
We all know how popular the local food movement has become, what with chefs sprinkling their menus with food from local farms, but a new restaurant in Staunton is embracing the the concept at its conception, in more ways than one.
Shooting for a mid-September opening, Mockingbird, a big addition to Beverly Street, will not only source its food from the area, but the current renovation of the space, the former home of Staunton Trains & Hobbies, is being constructed with locally reclaimed and created materials by local craftsmen, which includes a bar made with soapstone from Nelson County, locally sourced cherry and walnut for the tables, and lighting and accent pieces made by area glassblowers and coppersmiths.
Local musicians may want to rejoice as well, as there'll also be an acoustically separate 162-seat "music room" to showcase local roots music. To top it all off, owner Wade Luhn recently lured chef Lee Gregory away from Richmond's Six Burner Restaurant, selected as a favorite among Richmond restaurant owners in an April Richmond.com story.
Gregory, a graduate of Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts, worked for chef Dale Reitzer at Acacia Restaurant in Richmond until the owners opened Six Burner and handed the kitchen over to Gregory. Gregory says he's committed to “creating dishes that are pure, simple and true,” which is what attracted him to Mockingbird.
"Lee has ten years experience creating simple yet exquisite dishes using ingredients sourced from local family farms," says Luhn. " He's bringing a very compelling take on the farm-to-table movement to our kitchen."
Luhn also lured recent Johnson & Wales graduate Kevin Church down south to serve as sous chef. Church excelled in the Rhode Island school's Culinary Nutrition program.
“Cooking healthfully requires a chef to display his best techniques in order to bring out the natural flavors of the food," says Church, " something that should be a joy with the abundance of local ingredients."
Luhn appears uniquely suited for the task, as the former innkeeper has managed an organic farm in the Berkshire Mountains of New England, moved to Staunton and renovated a house in one of the Queen City's historic districts, and managed Queen City Brewing for three years, where he started hosting roots music events.
"I was very drawn to the idea of music being played in an intimate setting," says Luhn. "While I was looking for a way to advance the music concept, the opportunity to buy an historic building and bring together simply prepared, locally-sourced foods, hospitality, and music all under one roof presented itself. I jumped at the chance."