Chef to Chef: Jason and Walter

Jason Alley, chef/owner of Comfort, and Walter Bundy, longtime chef at Lemaire, get together over dim sum to discuss duck tongue, pickle chicken sandwiches, visiting superstars, and new restaurant plans.

The concept of Chef to Chef is simple: two local chefs (uh, obviously) meet up to to get acquainted, talk shop, and answer a few questions posed by the lovely Genevelyn Steele. Typically they meet at Morton’s The Steakhouse, but tricky schedules put them at Full Kee for this round. They’ll be back at Morton’s next time.

A couple weeks ago Jason Alley, chef/owner of Comfort, and Walter Bundy, longtime chef at Lemaire, got together over dim sum at Full Kee to discuss duck tongue, pickle chicken sandwiches, visiting superstars, and new restaurant plans.

Walter: I don’t get to come here much, I’ve got two little kids. How about [we order] the duck tongue?

Jason: You’ve had it?

Walter: Not here, we used to serve it at the French Laundry.

I don’t have to ask a thing. Both chefs have a lot on the calendar and though good friends, they haven’t seen each other in a little bit. They get to catching up. Jason is fixated on developing ideas for his new restaurant, Pasture, in the old Montaldo’s building on Grace Street.

Jason: The building is a historical building, 4,000 square feet and it will be something new for me. If I see another crooked neck squash I’m going to kill myself. Not that I don’t love my food [at Comfort] but I like creative growth. Pasture will be small plates, still Southern, more composed, but we’ll also have house-ground burgers. I’m working with Bill Chapman, as a consultant. Bill managed Europa, Havana 59, and has an on-line development group. It’s a historical building, and I’m working within the boundaries of a historic space.

I like to see a mission statement. I like to know what a restaurant is going for. Like, I love Julia’s new place [Secco]. It’s awesome. You walk in there and you know what’s going on. On the flip side of that, you know exactly what you’re getting into at Sidewalk too.

Walter: If you bend to everyone’s whim, you lose your identity. It’s all been done before — choose your path and stick to it. I’ve always hunted and farmed. The Bundy Farms [listed on the menu at Lemaire] started in my yard and moved to the parking lot of the hotel. The Bundy Farms ratatouille is on the menu now and the specials are handwritten, stuff from the garden; herbs, kohlrabi, corn, okra will be coming soon.

Next weekend is the Rappahannock Oyster tasting and Virginia Living shoot. I’m excited because my father and family have a place in Deltaville.

Jason: Wednesday [August 4] is going to be a blast. I’ll be in Atlanta for a patron’s dinner with Todd Richards [Rolling Bones BBQ] and Jim Shirley, the host chef and owner of Atlas Oyster House. This dinner is just after the Florida Scallop Festival [in the third week of July].

Genevelyn: I have to ask. Eric Ripert was in town and he visited both of your restaurants within hours. Jason, he went to Comfort twice. Spill.

Jason: I’m good friends with [writer and food stylist] Angie Mosier. She and I are both involved in the Southern Foodways Alliance. Angie is also a photographer for Avec Eric [Ripert’s culinary travelogue on PBS].

Jimmy [Sneed] made a reservation at Mamma ‘Zu, and the crew [of Avec Eric] was like, fuck that, we live in Manhattan, why are we going to eat Italian food in the South?

Walter: Eric Ripert was Jimmy Sneed’s sous chef at Watergate. He dined by himself at the bar [Lemaire] and didn’t get mobbed. We have a mutual DC cooking connection. When he was in town he toured Urbana and went to Surry to visit Edwards [Virginia and “Surryano” ham].

Jason: I think he ate with us before he ate with you. He came back another night and waited for a table.

Genevlyn: David Chang admits to craving Popeyes fried chicken, Anthony Bourdain cravenly desires KFC’s drive-through mac’n’cheese. Do you have a junky food lust?

Walter: Ice cream every night. I also make this pickle chicken sandwich [modeled after] Chick-Fil-A. I soak chicken in pickle juice for three days first. It’s a staff meal. It’s awesome, but I never want to put it on the menu, because that’s all I’d make.

Jason: The McRib and Krystal Burgers

Walter: The McRib, they bring it back every ten years — you missed it.

Jason: I didn’t miss it.

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Genevelyn Steele

Genevelyn Steele mixed her first drink, a “Pink Squirrel”, at age six. Dubbed a natural, she was quickly enlisted to bartend at her parents’ soirees.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. You can’t describe your pickle chicken sandwich and then say you’re not going to serve it. That’s just mean.

  2. Eric Ripert was Jimmy Sneed’s sous chef?? Too bad Jimmy didn’t learn anything from him…have never been impressed by Jimmy’s food.

    Love this series – give me hope that perhaps one day Bourdain might deign to visit RVA. Now THAT would be a chef-to-chef!

  3. I don’t know Might Casey; Jimmy Snead I remember a Crab Cake that will make you wanna smack your mama. and a Red Pepper Crab Soup and their was this soft shell crab, and a tapioka pudding and a…. I think its lunch time.

  4. Sorry, Eric – Frog & Redneck put out some of the sorriest excuses for cuisine I’ve ever made my tastebuds suffer thru. I still have PTSD from what I call The Pheasant Incident. Maybe I have an over-educated palate, but his kitchen always seems much more impressed with itself than it should be…

    That said, it is now DEFINITELY lunchtime ;)

  5. Duck tongue, I didn’t know they had that at full kee. I always got their assorted marinated stuff which usually has some kind of tongue plus innards. I do like chick-fil-a and I’m with David Chang – Popeye craving every now and then.

  6. markiemarkwine on said:

    ……so, Sneed was chef de cuisine under Palladin? so, as sous chef, Ripert worked under Sneed? If you look at Ripert’s training and success, and compare it to Sneed’s, you have to wonder what their relationship was like and what is really the truth.
    ……the comment above on “house-ground burgers” is hilarious. Is this the new way of stating “hand crafted burgers?”
    …I just had fried pig ear strip at Michael’s Genuine in Miami—like fries.
    ….Acacia by the way, has beef tongue. It also has Junipero gin, which when combined with the food, graciousness of its owners, and waitstaff who do not introduce themselves by name (thank God), makes it hands down the best dining experience in the area.

  7. Rusty S. on said:

    Comfort has a “chef”? I didn’t know it took a chef to make food that my blind grandmother can make way better.

    Surprised it took so long for Bundy to mention that he worked at the Laundry. Almost got through ordering.


  8. I mean this in the best way possible, but… whenever I read these Chef 2 Chef pieces, I get totally excited as they start going back and forth and then it abruptly ends – like a server taking your entree away before you’re done. I’m sure the word count is substantial, but I can’t help thinking there’s an unabridged version somewhere. Fortunately, if I wait long enough, amusing comments pile up, serving as a pretty good continuation of the conversation.

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