Meet Some Folks behind Richmond, Virginia’s Culinary Service

Standout Culinary Scene

Virginia’s culinary scene is rapidly garnering worldwide attention. A stop in Richmond is must considering to get the best culinary experience. The capital city, better known as RVA. Called out often by the experts and constantly added to national lists as a ‘must visit’. Richmond’s vast array of cutting-edge culinary offerings make it almost impossible to decide where to dine. We recently went behind-the-scenes with several of the folks who make Richmond’s food scene so special. You can watch the full virtual tour here or you can read on below.

grilling oysters

Before we offer you a small taste of the remarkable purveyors behind the scenes, let’s set the backdrop. The capital of the confederacy during the American Civil War, Richmond is rich in history. Arts and culture prevail, from the premier Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to a superlative street art scene. And right through the middle of the city runs the James River, providing the perfect outdoor playground to work up an appetite. Richmond is where urban edginess meets southern charm. Take a look and see what we mean.

An Overview of Richmond:

Today in Richmond, two of Virginia’s home-grown staples, oysters and craft beer, are being paired perfectly and served up sustainable culinary. Yet, not so long ago, these two incredible tastes would have been much harder to find in Virginia. Let’s start with the oyster and a trip to a farm.

native american fishing oysters

The story of the Virginia oyster goes back thousands of years to when Native Americans fished the waters of the Bay. Further, John Smith has a recent and notable history in the oyster. And the English settlers that arrived in Jamestowne, Virginia in 1609. The conditions of the Bay during that time were perfect for oysters, with the salty Atlantic Ocean. Likewise, water mixing with the freshwater of the rivers that emptied into the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, 19th-century population growth and 20th-century pollution drastically affected the oyster beds of the Chesapeake. By the 1980s, the once-abundant seafood dish became scarce and virtually inedible. See a short video of historic oyster farms below courtesy of Rappahannock Oyster Co.

Rappahannock Oyster Company in the 1950s

In the early 2000s, a group of Virginia watermen, scientists and environmentalists met to discuss a plan for saving the Bay’s oyster business. They began working to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and reintroduce healthy oysters once the water was clean. Today, these efforts have led to an oyster renaissance in Virginia. And you can find plump, mouthwatering examples of their success at restaurants throughout the U.S. East Coast.

Virginia oysters 

oysters with beer

Two of the Virginia watermen who played a particularly significant role in that renaissance. Are Travis and Ryan Croxton, cousins and owners of the fourth-generation, family-owned Rappahannock Oyster Company. Virginia oyster being close to being placed on the endangered species list and their family lease came together. The cousins were unwilling to let the rich family history fall by the wayside. And the more they researched the business, the more they realized they also wanted to help the oyster and the Bay.

So, they introduced ‘off bottom aquaculture’ at their farm in Topping, Virginia, a practice that helps not just the oyster but the waters in return, and their business boomed. Soon other farmers introduced the same techniques, and, in a few years, Virginia was back in the oyster business, with a cleaner Bay to boot. Below, go behind the scenes with Ryan and Travis Croxton to learn more.

Chef Ledesma, born to Filipino parents, grew up in New York and Annapolis, Maryland. And he brings flavours from every place that has inspired his cooking, including Hawaii, West Virginia and Virginia. He works actively with nearby farmers and butchers on a consistently changing, sustainable menu. As citrus trees on-site, it displays planters of herbs used in the kitchen. And one of the ways Chef Ledesma weaves in that ‘Virginia spirit’ is through the local oyster which he serves up in style, as you’ll soon see in the video below where he demonstrates a few of his oyster recipes. (By the way, if you are interested we are happy to share Chefs recipe…)

Richmond customised beer taps

Craft beer is a beverage that pairs perfectly with oysters and Richmond has no shortage of unbeatable breweries. Yet that wasn’t the case as little as 10 years ago. In 2010, Richmond had less than a handful of homegrown offerings. Now the city boasts nearly 40 and is considering to be one of the top craft beer destinations in the world.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Our next stop is at one of the oldest breweries in Richmond, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. Which opened in their downtown Richmond location in 2011 and has been growing ever since. They recently opened their newest brewery, Hardywood West Creek, just 20 minutes from downtown RVA. Nestled on 24 acres overlooking Tuckahoe Creek, Hardywood’s destination brewery features a built-in stage, an outdoor patio and beer garden, and a food truck plaza. Games like shuffleboard are also on-hand for entertainment, making the brewery a one-stop-shop for fun, food and great beer.

oldest breweries in Richmond, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Hardywood brews both innovative and traditional ales and lagers and has earned international acclaim. Including medals at the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup, and Australian International Beer Awards. Co-owners Patrick Murtaugh and Eric McKay take great pride in brewing with purpose, supporting local growers. Brewing with primarily Virginia ingredients and highlighting the eclectic variety of flavours that only Virginia-grown products can provide.

Hardywood was the first brewery in Virginia powered entirely by renewable energy, including solar, biomass, and wind through the Dominion Virginia Green Power Program. They also work with local farms to reuse their spent grain as compost and feed, and a number of their beers are brewed in support of organizations dedicated to environmental awareness and protection. Go behind-the-scenes with owners Patrick Murtaugh and Eric McKay to learn what makes Hardywood so special. We hope you enjoyed meeting some of the incredible people behind Virginia’s remarkable food scene and when you are ready to travel, come explore Virginia and Richmond.

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