COVER- Restaurant Week Summer 2010: What's in your fridge?



Anyone in there? Brian Wilkinson of l'étoile peers into the depths of his home fridge.

As a diner, we only get to see the end result: the perfectly sculpted steak tartare, the perfectionist plating of the local spinach salad with beets and raspberry vinaigrette, the local trout lovingly drenched in brown butter... but where did it all begin?

No, we're not asking if the chicken or the egg came first. But all food has to come from somewhere– and the difference between freshly-picked spinach and refrigerated week-old spinach shows when you put fork to mouth. What better way to see the secrets behind the serving platter than to take a peek inside a chef's inner sanctum: his fridge? With twenty of Charlottesville's most daring restaurants taking the plunge for The Hook's annual Restaurant Week by creating delectable– and affordable!– three-course menus, we wondered: "What's in your fridge?"

Twelve chefs bravely opened up their kitchen's coolers and gave us a peek into the source of their individual flavor preferences and organizational skills (come on, you know those bins and shelves are in there for a reason). Some plucky ones even let us into their homes to scour their fridge– and, boy, there's a reason chefs stay at their restaurants all the time! For better or worse, these fridges let us imagine the entire culinary process: from field to fridge to plate to you.





The Melting Pot

Derek Bond


Always in my fridge: A bottle of Chardonnay,  basics like bread and milk– the freezer's always got ground beef, steak, chicken, and shrimp.

Never in my fridge: An onion.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? There's just such a variety. You can go out to eat in Charlottesville and find any kind of ethnic food or all levels of food, from casual to fine dining to fast food.

My favorite meal: Chicken and shrimp– cooked on a charcoal grill, with a baked potato and caesar salad with it, and a nice crescent roll loaded in butter.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: When it comes to the entrees, I don't like to add a lot of exotic flavors to the meats– we don't want to load it down with different flavor profiles.





Todd Grieger


Always in my fridge: Mustard, bacon, milk

Never in my fridge: Prepared mayonnaise.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? I like the easy access to farms– I think there's almost as many farms as there are restaurants, so there's a lot to choose from, all reasonably priced, and everybody knows everybody.

My favorite meal: Smoked pork shoulder– if I were to have a last meal, it would be something pretty hearty and traditional, one that reminds me of my youth.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: I like green things, and I'm solidly rooted in French food, and I like spice– so I probably hit all those high flavor profiles in most everything I make.




Shebeen Pub & Braai

Ryan Rudnick


Always in my fridge: Tomatoes, slab bacon, camembert

Never in my fridge: Chicken, packaged salad greens, dried pasta, jarred tomato sauce.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? I love the availability of produce here– going out and being able to pick peaches or apples, really good artisan cheeses, having a lot of good butchers around– having that at your fingertips, the way people are taking pride in that are things I've never had before.

My favorite meal: Any kind of homemade pasta– it's something I really like to make and I've always had that in my family. It's something I eat a lot.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: Growing up in an Italian family and my background in school gave me the techniques I needed to keep it simple and have fun with it.




Blue Light Grill

Lee Gregory


Always in my fridge: Smoked bacon, eggs, an assortment of deli meat.

Never in my fridge: Tofu, leftovers, Diet Coke.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? There's starting to be more for everyone– a lot of things are popping up and the neighborhood aspect of it– the Mall, Belmont– everything is grouped together, which makes it quite convenient for the diner.

My favorite meal: Slow-roast pork butt turned into a taco.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: I've always been fish-heavy, which clearly helps here– I love fish, love the coast, and I portray that in an American-style restaurant.




Old Mill Room

Francisco Ayala


Always in my fridge: Tomatoes, cilantro, beef.

Never in my fridge: Strong-smelling cheese, liver, lamb.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? The talented chefs and "country" cooking style.

My favorite meal: A good steak, marinated with cilantro, onions, garlic.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: I always cook with my heart and put my heart into every dish we do.





Matthew Turner


Always in my fridge: Local meat, local jelly, local vegetables.

Never in my fridge: My girlfriend won't let me buy factory farm beef. We also stay away from generic grocery story vegetables.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? I like how local farming is evolving around here more so than other places and that's showing up in the restaurant scene– and I like the taco selection.

My favorite meal: Recently, I did a curried goat leg and made some homemade cilantro chutney.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: When I cook at home, I'm pretty ethnic, whether it's Thai or Mexican or Italian, so I feel strongly about stuff that has evolved over time. Traditional Thai coconut curry evolved over centuries– it's tough to beat something like that. When I cook here, I respect the stuff that has evolved for centuries.





Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar

Charles Roumeliotes


Always in my fridge: Milk, eggs, and mineral water.

Never in my fridge: Cheap bacon, margarine, Kraft parmesan cheese.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? I love the variety, the passion of some of the restaurant owners, the proximity of restaurants.

My favorite meal: Braised lamb.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: I like bright flavors– lemon, fresh herbs– and I love nice meats. Anything I serve at the restaurant, I'd be proud to serve at my home.




Pei Chang


Always in my fridge: Diet Coke, baby food, orange juice.

Never in my fridge: Regular Coke.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? You have a lot of options.

My favorite meal: Instant noodles.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: I'm from Southern California, so I have a lot of background in terms of different types of Asian cuisine– it helps here.




Brasserie Montiel

Alex Montiel


Always in my fridge: Milk, a bottle of ketchup, cheeses, one bin full of 7up, one of Diet Coke.

Never in my fridge: One hundred-year-old eggs, tofu, cheap wine.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? People know about food and they are very willing to try new food.

My favorite meal: I'm a breakfast kind of guy– eggs over easy with bacon, home fries, a nice freshly-baked croissant.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: My food is my expression of my heritage and the different international cuisines I make, so I just really design the menu with things that I love– and I really focus on what people like, so I'm very flexible in using ingredients that I'm not crazy about but that people really enjoy.





Amalia Scatena


Always in my fridge: Coconut water, eggs, cheese.

Never in my fridge: Steaks, vegetables, sodas.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? Everyone gets local ingredients, and you don't have to get your food from anywhere except for around here.

My favorite meal: Breakfast: two fried eggs, two sausages, an English muffin, grapefruit juice.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: I'm a big comfort eater, and love really simple, good ingredients– that's what I bring to Fossett's.




Brian Wilkinson



Always in my fridge: Butter, bacon, eggs– I can do breakfast usually.

Never in my fridge: I hate Vegemite, fat free milk is gross, and cheap orange juice.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? There's a lot of local farms and building the relationship with them and having that personal touch is the funnest part.

My favorite meal: The thing I usually make for myself is a club sandwich– Foods of all Nations has a good one. I cook for everyone all day long, so when I get home at night, I'm not cooking dinner for nobody and my days off is usually takeout.

On blending personal & work flavor palates: I do the menus and everything is what I find appealing, what I enjoy eating, but also what I think other people want– I'm trying to meet it halfway so that somebody gets what they want. As I've come in and gotten more comfortable, l'étoile has changed as well, all revolving around the fact that we can get more local produce from more sources.





Sebastien Jack


Always in my fridge: Gin, eggs, meat, beer, Nutella.

Never in my fridge: Vegetables.

What's so mouthwatering about the local food scene? All the people.

My favorite meal: Foie Gras.