Chef to Chef is back, this time with Kevin Roberts of The Black Sheep and Todd Richardson of The Boathouse. Here they have a few drinks and talk about old times, Richmond restaurant legends, and their favorite pizza.
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. Special thanks to Morton’s The Steakhouse for hosting!
This time I get together with Kevin Roberts, chef and co-owner of The Black Sheep and Todd Richardson, Executive Chef of The Boathouse, both veterans of the line with forty years of experience (and friendship) between them. Both chefs have spent time in New Orleans, but it is their local ties that are most recognizable.
Kevin began washing dishes at the Bamboo Cafe before moving to the Frog and the Redneck, and later, Acacia and Amici. Todd also started behind a sponge at another fan spot before moving on to Havanna 59, Patina Grill, and Verbena, where he was the chef and owner. These two have known each other for decades.
At Morton’s, during social hour with birdbath sized martinis, blue cheese stuffed olives and a couple of plates of bar bites: cheeseburger sliders and sweet, sweet, morsels from the Happy Hour Gods, mini-crabcakes.
Todd: (to Kevin) Happy Birthday, again.
Kevin: Thanks, it was great. (he points outside to a red Honda parked in front of Morton’s) Check out my birthday present from my girlfriend. It’s a hauler, for price clubs, PFG (Performance Food Group) market runs.
Todd: PFG, could they make it any harder to pick up product? The window opens at noon and 5:30.
Kevin: Prime time — don’t forget about Saturday at 8am. That used to be bedtime.
(The bartender delivers more drinks.)
Kevin: Where are you going out to eat now?
Todd: I live in Carytown, so I go places I can walk to. I like Secco and Can Can, which has some of the best ice cream in Richmond. Unusual flavors, like black pepper or raspberry chocolate chip.
Genevelyn: How did you guys meet?
Todd: We worked at Kuba Kuba together.
Kevin: I got started in the restaurant business at the Bamboo Café as a dishwasher for Manny before he opened Kuba Kuba, when I was in art school. I used to do every Sunday brunch at Kuba. I vowed each time that I’d never do Sunday brunch again once I got out of there.
Todd: I said the same thing at Verbena. I am The Boathouse about 7am on Sundays now.
Genevelyn: What is going on at The Boathouse?
Todd: We have a Chesapeake Bay Foundation box on the menu. All the sales from that section directly benefit the foundation.
Kevin: How’s Jimmy (Sneed) doing with that?
Todd: Jimmy is not involved anymore.
Kevin: How did you like cooking with him?
Todd: I learned a lot from him, but he wasn’t directly cooking side-by-side with us.
Kevin: He’s older. It’s too hard on your body, your joints, being back there all night. Kitchen breaks (referring to cocktail breaks) for me should include glucosamine.
Genevelyn: That’s a great drink idea, vodka and glucosamine shots for aging chefs.
Kevin: Or an Ensure White Russian.
Genevelyn: Todd, the current menu at The Boathouse, is that yours or his (Jimmy’s)?
Todd: Partly Jimmy’s, partly mine — it’s transitioning.
Kevin: Did you interview with him for that job?
Todd: Yes, it was like a two-day interview. The first meeting he told me he had nothing for me. Then we met over coffee and I was offered the job after that meeting.
Kevin: I remember my interview with him at The Frog and the Redneck. I wore a dress shirt and wingtips. I was still in art school. I rode my bike downtown on a really hot day, sweat was pouring down my dress shirt when I walked in. He took one like at me and said “Wingtips, huh?” I don’t think I even knew what wingtips were. I learned a lot from him — like keep my head down and work hard.
Todd: I learned salt. Real Salt from Utah is what he was into at The Boathouse. It is from when the earth was covered with water and is pulverized, not processed. It’s not quite white.
When I interviewed with Jimmy I hadn’t worked in six months. I had just sold Verbena and wasn’t really looking. One night I was at Can Can and I ran into Kenny Bendheim (Anything Goes Cafe & Catering, former owner of Graffiti Grille — like Jimmy Sneed, if you start talking about Richmond restaurants, this name will pop up) he asked me what I was doing.
Kevin: Were you eating ice cream? Was it like blackberry goat cheese or some shit like that?
Todd: Yeah. Something like that. Then, a week later I met Jimmy. When I interviewed I had a beard and dressed casually. My girlfriend asked me if I was going to change.
Kevin: He likes clean shaven, clean nails.
Genevelyn: All the better to feed you with. He is one of the late, great kitchen role models and shape shifters of RVA. I am interested in to see what happens at Fresca, the vegan model resto he’s opening with his daughter. It’ll be thoughtful. There will be salt.
Where does the 1970s little boys rec room décor in The Black Sheep come from?
Kevin: Thrift shops, antique stores, estate sales, gifts. Living in Richmond, I have a connection to two things: the Civil War and cheesy décor. It kills me when customers ask to buy the salt and pepper shakers. I say “no” and am usually pressed about it, so then I have to say “no, I’m sorry they were a gift” and then they get stolen. Wow. So you loved your experience so much that you had to steal the salt and pepper shakers. Fuck.
Genevelyn: The pizza question: Your girlfriend is bringing home takeout. Where would you like her to stop for pizza?
Kevin: Mamma Zu.
Todd: You can’t print this, but I like the deep dish Sicilian from (place rhymes with Lisa the Slut).