Article by Chris Fellini
Illustration by Noel Miciano
Eventually, the restaurant scene evolved to the point where only the wealthiest can afford an exquisite meal. The rest of us are left with cheap takeout and Sunday buffets, and we do it because we don’t know any better. Then comes the internet. And food blogs. And Instagram. And foodies. Now, everyone’s talking about quinoa and kohlrabi, and free range is all the rage.
So what does this mean for restaurants? I spoke with two guys in the industry to get their thoughts from opposite ends of the spectrum. Ian Swoveland graduated from the Culinary Institute of Virginia in 2010 and has since worked at The Cellars, Catch-31, Norfolk Chophouse, and Can Can in Richmond. Joe Pavey is the chef/co-owner of 80/20 Burger Bar. He’s worked at most of the Little Bar Bistro establishments, as well as at Bardo and Shuck’s.
Q: So, does a culinary degree still serve a purpose anymore?
Swoveland: The thing that changed, I think, was that culinary schools went out and promoted the fuck outta themselves to make money. Also, Food Network is the real game changer ‘cuz now everyone wants to be a chef. People don’t understand what a culinary degree means anymore. A person still has to define himself, but he’s taught a wider variety than a cook.
Pavey: The only thing is, with having a degree your base level knowledge is amazing.
Q: Is fine dining still relevant anymore?
S: It’s the overall experience. From the guys in the kitchen to the wait staff. Your waiters have been in the industry for like ten or twenty years.
P: I don’t ever wanna see fine dining go away.
Q: What about the cheaper guys popping up? Doing food that compares in quality, but for way less.
P: I consider 80/20 blue collar gourmet. We tried to picture a place we would want to go to. It’s harder to promote fine dining on a daily basis, but you can come here 2, 3 times a week.
Q: What about the big chain spots?
P: I think for most people, there’s a comfort in the corporate spots. It’s consistent.
S: I think the big guys are dying. Red Lobster closed, Olive Garden almost closed. And ten years ago, Olive Garden was fine dining.
Q: Thoughts on foodies?
P: We’re just opening up more as people now. As long as we keep on the track of people knowing where their food is coming from.
S: There’s so many foodies, that even fast food places are putting out better products. McDonald’s has a brioche roll now
P: That’s the real litmus test.
Q: What direction is food headed next? What’s the next big thing?
S: If I knew that, I would be doing it.
P: I think we’re going to see a super focus on cultural cuisines. As for 80/20, we’re gonna start getting more game meats, and expanding our canning possibilities.I feel comfortable that we can get a little funkier
For more on 80/20 Burger visit: www.8020burgerbar.com
For more on Can Can visit: www.cancanbrasserie.com
For more on Illustrator Noel Miciano visit https://www.facebook.com/pucknkhaos
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