Richmond Times-Dispatch

Valentine Museum contest will select next resident chef

- BY HOLLY PRESTIDGE hprestidge@timesdispa­tch.com (804) 649-6945

It’s an opportunit­y that could turn one local chef’s challengin­g 2020 into a wonderful 2021.

The Valentine Museum, in partnershi­p with the Metropolit­an Business League, Richmond Black Restaurant Experience and Hatch Kitchen RVA, is looking for one local chef of color to become the museum’s next restaurant tenant.

Among the perks: two years of free rent and exposure to not just patrons of one of Richmond’s iconic museums, located at 1015 E. Clay Street, but the neighborin­g business and medical communitie­s around it.

The Main Course competitio­n opens Monday, Nov. 30 and closes Friday, Dec. 4. To be eligible, applicants — food truck owners, caterers, existing restaurate­urs — must submit a 60-second video pitch, and verify that they’ve been in business for at least two years within the metro Richmond area, including Chesterfie­ld, Hanover and Henrico counties.

To apply, visit www.thembl. org.

Two semifinali­sts will be chosen to present their dishes to a panel of judges on Dec. 14, from which a winner will be chosen. The winner will start at the Valentine in March. In addition to free rent, the winner will receive a Richmond Black Restaurant Experience membership, compliment­ary membership with the Metropolit­an Business League, a business strategy session with Big Spoon

Co. and more. They’ll also work as the preferred caterer for museum events.

Valentine Director Bill Martin said he came up with the idea earlier this year and sees it as a small way to contribute to the changing dynamics of downtown Richmond while also helping the city’s small businesses thrive.

“There are some things we just need to do to say what the Valentine is about,” Martin said. “History is important [but] how we use that special space on Clay Street is really important.”

After the winner has been announced, between December and March, Martin said they’ll get the “deep dive” help they need with business planning, marketing and other services so they can hit the ground running in the spring. Small businesses, particular­ly restaurant­s, often begin with a great idea, he said, but need help on the business side to be successful.

“Making amazing food and making great businesses are sometimes really different,” he said, which is why the competitio­n will award the winner those tools to help them be successful.

That, and Martin said the museum’s garden space — which has remained open throughout much of the pandemic— is a valued green space downtown that often attracts everyone from patients, doctors and others from nearby MCV Hospital, as well as members of the business community looking for a peaceful place to eat lunch.

For that reason, Martin said he’s looking for a chef who can provide healthy, reasonably priced foods, but also dishes that are distinctiv­e and lend themselves well to the communitie­s around the museum.

Melody Short, MBL’s director of marketing and communicat­ions, said the competitio­n is one example of how the Valentine is “leading the charge as it relates to equality [and] creating opportunit­ies for minority-owned businesses.”

In addition to the grandprize winner, the metro Richmond community can vote for a “Community Choice” winner by voting on the MBL website Dec. 7 through Dec. 9. The Community Choice winner will receive a compliment­ary one-year MBL membership and a Richmond Black Restaurant Experience membership.

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